Now that the Texans have moved on, a trip to Foxboro awaits. Last time they went there, it essentially derailed their season in a 42-14 loss in which the Texans were dominated in every phase.
The Patriots did that without Rob Gronkowski, who will play Sunday, which does not bode well for the Texans, who are 9 1/2-point underdogs.
The bad news? Houston really hasn't played well the last five games. They did beat Cincinnati and Indianapolis, but managed just one offensive TD in each of those games.
Yes, Gary Kubiak was disturbingly conservative in the Bengals game, but the Texans believed Cincinnati could not score on them so they kept it close to the vest. It's a model that has worked well for the Texans all season against inferior teams.
Against teams like the Patriots, it won't work. New England is a tough matchup for Houston because they can spread the field and take advantage of the Brandon Harrises and Shiloh Keos of the world.
So is there any hope? Can the Texans do what the Jets did a couple years ago and win in Foxboro after being blown out a few weeks before?
It's a long shot, but it could happen. Here's five things they have to accomplish to have any shot: (and no, we're not counting Tom Brady having a weird sexual injury with Giselle and being unable to play or Bill Belichick getting arrested the night before, being locked away and violated by several large cell mates).
1) Don't run the ball at Vince Wilfork. When they last met, the Texans stubbornly kept trying to go right at the Patriots' best defensive player. Predictably, it failed. If the Texans are to have any chance, they will have to run the ball effectively and keep Brady off the field. They will need long drives. They can't do that by sending Arian Foster right at Wilfork. He's too big, quick and talented. Even if the run away from him, he will make plays; he will also take away a lot of the cutbacks. But the Texans can't make it easy on him by going right at him.
2) Hit Brady. Then hit him again. Blitzing Brady rarely works; he will eat you alive. But you have to get after him with a base front, and he can get rattled. The Giants were masterful at getting a rush with their front four, which is why they were able to beat him in the Super Bowl. Stop us if you have heard this before, but someone other than J.J. Watt is going to have to step up and make plays. When they do blitz, they have to get to Brady quickly and hit him. The Patriots are going to score points, but the Texans can keep it under control by slowing Brady down and getting a few stops. They have to get pressure to do that.
3) Get a career game from Matt Schaub. He simply has to play better than he has at any point this season. That doesn't mean hitting a bunch of long passes, but it does mean protecting the football, making good decisions (especially on third down) and moving the chains. It also means not settling for field goals in the red zone. Four field goals won't win in New England. The red-zone play calling has to be better, the execution has to be perfect, and the untimely penalties need to go away.
4) Speaking of penalties...The Texans have played undisciplined football for over a month. Pass interference and holding calls on third down are killers. The Texans simply can't have those kinds of penalties against New England. If you can get Brady off the field on third down, you can win. Giving him free plays with stupid penalties is a recipe for disaster.
5) Regain their turnover mojo. The Texans have not been getting turnovers over the past month. The only one against the Bengals came on a Jonathan Joseph pick on a play where A.J. Green failed to recognize the blitz and did not make a play on the ball. You could argue they were robbed of a turnover in Indy, but nothing you can do about that. The Texans are going to have to not only get turnovers, but points on defense. Brady doesn't throw a lot of picks, so forcing fumbles will be paramount.
IF the Texans can do all five of those things, then they might have a chance. Even so, they are up against it. The Patriots have been there before, know what to do and have already pounded the Texans to their souls once. Houston will have to man up and play its best game of the season.
And by the way, how about taking all the letterman jackets, segways, Priuses, Gary Kubiak's play chart, Antonio Smith's sword act, Veganism and all those AFC South champion hats and t shirts and use them for a nice barbecue?
Oh, and hope Giselle gets out of line with Brady.
Failing that, there are things the Texans can do on the field. And even that might not be enough. But if things are going to be different this time around, a different Texans team has to show up.
Otherwise, the season will end -- as it might already have -- on the wrong end of a rout in New England.