We finally propelled a team to brilliance instead of holding them back last week, with the San Francisco 49ers going on the road to dispense of the Los Angeles Rams a week after we crowned them the league’s biggest mover. While the Detroit Lions were a solid contender for this award after a good showing in Lambeau Field against the Packers, the referees had other designs, leaving the Packers in first place in the NFC North and the Lions in last. Thus, our Week 6 AWS Biggest Mover the Houston Texans, who went into Arrowhead Stadium and beat the 4-1 Kansas City Chiefs, drastically increasing their standing in the AFC in the process.
We now have the Texans winning the division in almost 60% of our simulations while making the playoffs in a weak AFC about three-fourths of the time a week after being about a 50-50 proposition on the former and a 40/60 one on the latter. Not only did Houston pick up an actual win against the Chiefs Sunday, but their subsequent increase in various power ratings moved their projected win total up over a full win as a result of last week, boding well for them both in the South and in the AFC in general.
The best thing going for Houston is the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Deshaun Watson. Our sixth-highest-graded quarterback through Week 6, Watson has averaged over eight yards per pass attempt (despite a top-five number of drops from his receivers). The Texans' passing offense, with last season’s most-valuable non-quarterback in DeAndre Hopkins, is averaging roughly a third of an expected point each time Watson drops back to throw, and he has twice as many big-time throws than turnover-worthy throws. The offensive line has struggled at times, and Watson has invited pressure quite a bit during the course of his career, but he was kept clean the vast majority of the time the last few weeks, as his 22.9% pressure rate is the second-lowest among qualifying players in Weeks 5 and 6 combined. If this trend continues, the inconsistency that has fled the Texans at times during the Watson era could be a thing of the past, and their spot atop the AFC South more secure moving forward.
The Texans had one of the most-difficult schedules coming into the year, but they have come out of the first six weeks having played teams like New Orleans, Los Angeles and Kansas City and now have a slate that is more middle of the pack than previously assumed. While it has taken some time and still might be more noise than anything, it appears that Bill O’Brien is starting to make the decisions that a coach needs to make to compete against great teams as well. He’ll have to this week, as he prepares to take on Frank Reich and the Indianapolis Colts in a battle to remain in first place in the AFC South.