After an 0-3 start followed their last-place finish in 2017, the Houston Texans finished the 2018 season as AFC South champions.
In beating last year's division winners, the Jacksonville Jaguars, 20-3 on Sunday, the Texans finished 11-5 to almost assuredly lock up the AFC's third overall seed and their third playoff trip — all by way of winning the South — in five seasons under coach Bill O'Brien. Houston's 11-2 mark over its final 13 games is tied with the 1992 San Diego Chargers for the best in the NFL dating back to the 1990 season, according to Pro Football Reference.
Arguably none of O'Brien's Texans campaigns have been more impressive than this year's, when Houston's 11 wins marked its second-highest total in franchise history, with the club's biggest catalyst on each side of the ball — QB Deshaun Watson and DE J.J. Watt — returning from season-ending injuries the year prior to rediscover their MVP-caliber form.
Watson on Sunday didn't throw a touchdown for the first time all season, but he rushed for one, part of his 67-yard, 12-carry performance on the ground, in addition to 25-of-35 for 234 yards through the air. Watt tallied 1 ½ sacks, increasing his total to 16 to make him the only player not named Reggie White in NFL history with at least four seasons including 15 sacks.
The Texans also received another big game from CB1 Kareem Jackson (three PBUs) and enjoyed a welcome boost on the ground from the return of RB1 Lamar Miller (15-52-1 rushing), who was inactive last week after injuring his knee early in Week 15.
However, it should be noted that the Texans' biggest concern all season — keeping Watson upright — hardly subsided, but it might have been compounded by O'Brien. Say what you will about O'Brien opting to play Watson for the entire game despite holding a three-score lead for most of the fourth quarter. But his quarterback endured six sacks and 11 QB hits, raising the first total to 62 — tied for the fifth-most in NFL history — as Houston's O-line was its usual porous self. Clearly, rebuilding the O-line will be Houston's top offseason directive in order to help preserve the career of Watson, who's been brilliant despite taking a relentless beating in his first two seasons.
Although a Kansas City Chiefs loss at home to the Raiders this afternoon could push the Texans into the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, they'll most likely host the winner of Sunday night's wild-card play-in game between the division rival Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans, both of whom Houston split the regular-season series with, at NRG Stadium next weekend.