The Texans have never enjoyed the status of being in first place seven weeks into the NFL season, but coach Gary Kubiak doesn't sound like a coach who's getting caught up in the moment. That's what coaches do stay upbeat when despair seems appropriate and throttle back the enthusiasm when the fan base is ready to hold a parade. It's all part of keeping the team focused on the task ahead, as opposed to wallowing in misery or basking in premature glory.
"I really don't look at that too much," Kubiak said Monday. "We've got so far to go. I think we better just stay focused on what we're doing week to week right now. I think it's way too early to start thinking that way."
Perhaps too early for the coach but fans and media are free to daydream about a place this franchise has yet to visit: the NFL post-season. In fact, Houston holds the longest playoff drought among current NFL cities. And that does not include the five years the city had no NFL franchise. The last playoff memory for this city is Joe Montana and the Chiefs eliminating the Oilers 28-20 on January 16, 1994. Heck, the Lions last made the playoffs more recently than a Houston team.
Just to add to the fantasy, here's the scenario: If the playoffs started now, the Texans would host the Steelers in the first round. Except that such a scenario is much more conceivable than fantasy. The bad news is that with the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals all owning winning records in the AFC North and with the Chargers, Raiders, Bills and Jets in the hunt in the AFC, the wild card will not come from the AFC South. The only playoff berth coming from the Texans' division is the division champ. The good news is that the South is arguably the worst division in the NFL and it's there for the taking by the Texans.
"In the NFL, most of the schedules are back-half loaded for division football games," Kubiak said. "That's where all the movement takes place. We haven't entered the back-half of this season yet so we'll see what happens. I'm not too focused on that because I'm just worried about how we play."
Four of the Texans' final nine games are against division opponents and Kubiak's team is already 2-0 against AFC South teams. Again, because of the softness, the Texans should certainly have a winning record within the division.
The bottom line is that while it's almost a certainty that the Texans will have to win the division to make the post-season, the division is in their hands. In fact, among the current division leaders the Patriots, Chargers, Ravens and Texans Houston has the most favorable remaining schedule. Of the final nine opponents only three have a winning record currently: the Bucs, Falcons and Bengals. Combine that with AFC South opponents struggling with a down year and you get the Texans as favorites to capture the South for the first time in franchise history.