Welcome to your Monday roundup of the best and worst of NFL Sunday — by which we mean the single very best thing and single very worst thing. Because the stuff in the middle doesn’t matter, really.
THE BEST OF NFL SUNDAY: So maybe read this while holding your breath and crossing your fingers and doing whatever it is you prefer to ward off the cruel fates… but it looks like the Houston Texans finally have a quarterback.
Deshaun Watson was roundly ridiculed as he began his NFL career with a game and a half of horribly ineffectual play, totalling 227 yards and a lone touchdown over six quarters. And then, of course, he walked into Foxboro and nearly beat the Patriots in Week 3. Sunday against the Titans, he was even better.
I hear you: A rookie had a couple good games against defences that have proven so far to be among the NFL’s worst. So what?
Sure, it may not mean all that much in the here and now, but if Watson can somehow (pretty please) hold up as the real deal, he could give us our first legitimate playoff contender from the AFC South since Andrew Luck was healthy enough to put a crappy defence on his back for a couple of games. And even Luck’s best Colts team was never a real threat.
The Texans, though, are an incredibly watchable, exciting team, playing for a disaster-ravaged city, and prior to this season were really only missing a competent quarterback. Watson’s emergence has made DeAndre Hopkins into a top-five NFL receiver once again, has opened things up for a running game that features a quality vet in Lamar Miller and an exciting rookie in D’Onta Foreman.
More importantly, it takes some pressure of a defence that boasts both J.J. Watt and a finally healthy Jadeveon Clowney doing stuff like this:
If Watson can stay under centre all season, the NFL Playoffs may finally get an AFC South Champion that someone has to take seriously.
THE WORST OF NFL SUNDAY: True story: Last season, on Christmas Eve, Titans QB Marcus Mariota and Raiders QB Derek Carr both broke their legs on the same day in separate games, ending the respective seasons of both their teams (the Raiders lost in the first round of the playoffs; the Titans couldn’t make it there with Matt Cassel at the helm).
Yesterday, a few hours apart in two different stadiums, both franchise QBs went down again — Mariota to a hamstring injury that will require an MRI today, and Carr to back spasms that may or may not sideline him next week.
Carr had been off to a slow start on the season, but the Raiders were 2-1 and in a dogfight of a game with the Broncos when he went down.
Mariota had been shining through three weeks for the Titans, and even in a game when he couldn’t get it going through the air, he’d rushed for two scores himself before leaving the game.
The replacements? EJ Manuel for the Raiders and the aforementioned Cassel for the Titans. Picture Manuel trying to place dart throws amidst the Broncos No-Fly Zone secondary, and the 35-year-old Cassel trying to evade Watt and Clowney as they tear through the pocket, and you have an idea of how the rest of the day went.
Neither injury appears season-ending, which is an improvement on last Christmas Eve. Though that’s about the only bright side to this Sunday for the Raiders and Titans.