HOUSTON (AP) — The Texans needed a win over Baltimore to enter their bye with the AFC’s best record.
The lopsided victory gave them that, and clearly separated them from the second-place Ravens and the rest of the conference.
Still, the Texans (6-1) know they can’t be too impressed with what they’ve accomplished so far.
“You can’t look at the big picture because when you get too far ahead of yourself, that’s when bad things happen,” Andre Johnson said.
But with a dominant defense allowing the second fewest points in the AFC coupled with the second-highest scoring offense in the conference, they’ve become the team to beat in the AFC.
Aside from Houston and Baltimore, New England (4-3) is the only AFC team with more than three wins. Houston will get a shot at the Patriots on Dec. 10.
The Texans are well on their way to winning a second-straight AFC South title with a three-game lead over second-place Indianapolis (3-3).
Houston’s only loss this season was to the NFC’s Green Bay Packers. Their average margin of victory in their six wins, all over AFC teams, is more than 17.6 points this season.
With a goal of reaching the Super Bowl a season after making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Texans are well aware of the importance of AFC supremacy.
“That’s what you work for,” defensive end J.J. Watt said. “That’s why we put in all the time and the effort. I think it’s a testament to the way we attack each week. We have the mentality of focus and preparation. Nobody ever gets complacent. Nobody ever feels safe. Nobody ever feels that we’re where we want to be at yet. Everybody knows what the main goal is and we’re not there yet, so we’re going to work to get there.”
The outstanding play of Watt, who is in his second season, has been a big part of Houston’s defensive success. He leads the NFL in sacks with 9 and he’s tied for second in the league in passes defended with 10. The Texans are second in the AFC in yards allowed (283), interceptions (9) and sacks (21).
There was some concern a week ago after Houston lost 42-24 to the Packers in its first game without linebacker Brian Cushing, who is out for the season with a knee injury. But the defense bounced back on Sunday when the unit held Baltimore to a season-low 176 yards.
“It was right after a tough loss, a bad loss,” linebacker Brooks Reed said. “So to have a game like that really boosted our confidence back up again, kind of reassured us as players and the coaches that we do have something special.”
Of course, Houston’s offense has certainly held its own to complement the defensive success. Arian Foster leads the NFL with 659 yards rushing and Owen Daniels is third in yards receiving for a tight end with 416. Quarterback Matt Schaub has rebounded from a broken foot that kept him out of Houston’s postseason run last year to throw for 1,650 yards and 10 touchdowns. But more important than his statistics has been the way he’s led the Texans this season.
“He’s managed the game,” offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. “He gets our guys going. I think he’s stepped up leadership wise. I think he’s done a tremendous job.”
The Texans return from their bye next week to host Buffalo. Coach Gary Kubiak said it’s too early to talk about being atop the AFC, and insists they’re only focused on the Bills. He is happy with the progress of his team so far, and looking forward to what it can do the rest of the season.
“The thing that I’m most excited about our team is that I don’t think we’ve touched the surface of what we can be up front. I think we can be much better,” he said. “I think receiver we’re only going to get better. I see our team getting a lot better throughout the course of the season so we’re going to stay away from that one. We’re just going to try to play every week and find a way to win every week and see what happens here down the road.”