Texans at Jets final score, takeaways: Houston's stars capable of carrying them to first-round bye and beyond

People wondered about the Texans this season, curious if a team with so many question marks could manage to make a legitimate run in the AFC. Turns out, if you have a star-heavy roster that can stay healthy, as the Texans do and have, anything is possible. Even potentially a first-round bye. 

The Texans are now 10-4 and hold the No. 2 seed in the AFC after a 29-22 win over the Jets on Saturday. A Patriots loss to the Steelers, in a game that you can stream on CBS All Access or fuboTV (Try for free), would put the Texans in great position to secure a first-round bye and set them up for a deep playoff run.

The Texans are in play for a first-round bye because of their star power, which was out in full force against the Jets. No one had a bigger night than DeAndre Hopkins, freed from the shackles of bad quarterbacking, exploding for 170 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which was the game-winning score for Houston. 

The Jets inexplicably declined to throw anything more than single coverage from Mo Claiborne at Hopkins. It's really bizarre Todd Bowles would think the Texans might target anyone else in a critical situation like that. The all-world receiver was running free and winning jump balls in one-on-one situations all night. 

Of course, he was catching passes from Deshaun Watson, the quarterback who finally gives the Texans a true franchise signal-caller. That combo alone makes the Texans dangerous in the postseason. 

Defensively, the duo of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney showed up in a big way -- the star pair combined for three sacks on the night -- and provide the defensive yang to Watson and Hopkins yin on offense. Watt came up with a huge sack early and Clowney basically sealed the game with a sack on third down later. They spent almost the entire evening putting pressure on Sam Darnold, and they have the ability to take over a game with the pressure they can put on a quarterback. 

We keep thinking the Texans will stop piling up wins. The competition gets tougher once the postseason begins. But the Houston has the star power to make a run. 

Darnold is the truth

For the Jets, the loss stings, but it's hard not to be thrilled at what Sam Darnold's done the last two weeks. With New York down 16-3 late in the second quarter, it looked like the Jets might just be hopelessly overmatched. Then Darnold took over. 

He led a nine-play, 83-yard scoring drive that culminated in a short touchdown pass to Robby Anderson and kept the Jets in the game. He opened up the third quarter by leading an eight-play, 60-yard drive that led to an Andre Roberts score, which would have given the Jets the lead if Jason Meyers could make an extra point. 

On the two drives sandwiching halftime, Darnold went 8-of-9 for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns and 10 rushing yards. He was moving around, throwing on the run, putting balls into tight windows and generally not looking like a rookie quarterback. 

After a Texans field goal, Darnold did give New York the lead by going 15 yards for 73 yards that ended with an Elijah McGuire two-yard touchdown run. He went 4 for 7 on that drive, displaying more of the same traits.

If you're a Jets fan, the loss shouldn't hurt because there's obviously a guy in place who can function as a potential star quarterback. The franchise needs to figure out how to put pieces around him -- maybe it's drafting a wide receiver in the first round or maybe it's spending big on Le'Veon Bell -- and he desperately needs some better protection, because for much of the game against Houston he just didn't have time in the pocket.

But there was enough there to be happy about where the Jets are for the long haul at the quarterback position, even if there are many more questions to be answered.

Questionable coaching

Never seen something quite like what unfolded late in the fourth quarter with the Jets trying to march down the field. On a short third down, the Jets ran Trenton Cannon up the middle. It looked like he might have been stopped, and even though he was piled up on some bodies, the refs blew the whistle and ruled him down. Everyone assumed the Jets would challenge (there was a good chance they would win it), but they sprinted to the line and tried to run a play. Before they could -- and it looked like the play was going to fall short -- Bill O'Brien called timeout for the Texans. 

What? Yup, O'Brien gave the Jets roughly 42 angles to see what happened on the play and challenge. And the Jets still didn't challenge! They saw all the angles and still declined to challenge the play. That Darnold whipped a pass that Robby Anderson caught for a first down doesn't justify the poor decision-making.

Playoff implications

The Texans can clinch the AFC South if both the Titans and the Colts lose on Sunday. The Titans play the Giants on the road and Indy hosts the Cowboys

What's next?

For the Texans, they're headed for a second straight road game and an opportunity to really chase a bye when they play in Philadelphia against the Eagles in Week 16. If the Patriots lose to the Steelers on Sunday, Houston would be in the driver's seat to land the bye. 

For the Jets, they'll continue trying to develop Darnold with another home game, this time against the Packers, who sport a fairly questionable defense. Darnold vs. Rodgers could be sneaky fun. 

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