Texans look to remain in AFC Wild Card race against Jets: Cowboys host Eagles in key NFC East game in prime time

The 2023 NFL season is heading into the home stretch as the calendar has turned to December and a number of teams are still alive in the playoff hunt, just what the NFL wants.

One of those teams is the hometown Houston Texans who despite losing a tough 24-21 decision to Jacksonville two weeks ago at home, are very much alive in the AFC Wild Card race.

DeMeco Ryan’s’ team can help their cause this Sunday with a win against a struggling New York Jets team at The Meadowlands.

The AFC South is probably out of reach for the Texans due to their loss to the Jags. That defeat left the Texans two games behind in the division with just five games left to play. The Jags are rolling and could cause trouble in the playoffs.

Although the Jets are having a rough season, especially on offense, they are solid on defense and will be ready for rookie QB C.J. Stroud on Sunday. The NY offense could get a big boost if Aaron Rodgers, their big acquisition in the offseason, returns from the Achilles injury he suffered on his fourth play as a Jet. If I’m New York management, I would hold the future Hall of Famer out for the remainder of the season because the Jets aren’t going to the playoffs and if Rodgers reinjures his Achilles, he might be gone for next season as well.

While the Texans hit the road to New Jersey, the Dallas Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles in a key NFC East game on Sunday Night Football. Like the Texans, the Cowboys chances of winning the division are slim, but a win over their heated rivals would do a lot for their confidence down the stretch and could position them as the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs.

But it won’t be easy. Two weeks ago, the Eagles overcame a 10-point halftime deficit (they trailed at KC 17-7 on Nov. 20 before rallying for a 21-17 win) to defeat a game Buffalo team 37-34 in overtime in the rain in Philly.

The Cowboys have been tough to beat at home and took a 13-game home winning streak into last Thursday night’s home game against Seattle.

This should be one of the best regular season games to watch come Sunday night.

Other key games this weekend have the Lions taking on the Bears in Chicago, while Jacksonville visits Cleveland in a key game for the Browns and their playoff hopes. For the second time in two weeks, Seattle takes on the 49ers, this time in San Francisco. The 49ers dominated the Seahawks in Seattle on Thanksgiving night, 31-13, and can pretty much wrap up the NFC West with a win on Sunday. Buffalo visits Kansas City in what should be an offensive shootout, while the hot Denver Broncos take on the disappointing Los Angeles Chargers. For the third time this season, we get two Monday Night Football games as the Packers visits the Giants (yawn), while the Titans visit the Dolphins.

By this time next week, we should know the four teams that will make up the College Football Playoffs (CFP). There are a number of contenders for the four spots and once the dust settles from last weekend’s conference title games, the four CFP spots should be decided.

Off the field, Texas A&M hired Duke head coach (and former Aggie defensive coordinator) Mike Elko to replace Jimbo Fisher. I think it’s a good hire. Elko won at Duke, and if he could win at a basketball school, imagine what he can do at a place like A&M and all of the resources that will be available to him.

Locally, the University of Houston fired head coach Dana Holgerson, which many thought was coming at UH finished 4-8 in its first year in the Big 12. It will be interesting to see who the powers that be at UH select to succeed Holgerson. My pick would be UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor, but they aren’t asking me.

Before we take a look at this weekend’s NFL games, let’s review last week’s record. A 9-3 week brought the season record to 91-43 (669%).

Now, onto this week’s game.


Detroit at Chicago: Two weeks ago, the Lions lost at home on Thanksgiving to a sub- 500 Green Bay team, so look for Detroit head coach Dan Campbell to have his troops focused when they face NFC North rival Chicago on Sunday in the Windy City. The Lions will look for a big game from their potent offense led by QB Jared Goff (3,075 yards, 18 TDs), and running backs David Montgomery (648 yards, 8 TDs) and Jahmyr Gibbs (566 yards, 5 TDs). Once those two soften up the Bears defense, look for Goff to make plays down field to wide receiver Aman-Ra St. Brown (82 receptions, 993 yards, 5 TDs) and tight end Sam LaPorta (55 receptions, 539 yards, 5 TDs). The Bears, once again, are simply playing for next season. My pick, Detroit 33, Chicago 18

Houston at New York Jets: If the Texans are going to continue to have postseason dreams, they need to win games they are supposed to win and that will be the case on Sunday when they face the Jets. Stroud (3,266 yards, 19 TDs) will face a tough Jets defense, but he has shown thus far he is up to the task. He almost brought the Texans back two weeks ago against the Jags and this week he will continue to need to make plays downfield to Nico Collins (50 receptions, 899 yards, 5 TDs) and rookie Tank Dell (47 receptions, 709 yards, 7 TDs). Look for the Houston defense to get after a putrid Jets offense as the Texans pick up a nice road win. My pick, Houston 26, New York Jets 13

Jacksonville at Cleveland: This will be a tough road test for the Jags when they face a very good Cleveland defense and the Cleveland December weather. This game will test Jacksonville’s mettle. Jags QB Trevor Lawrence (2,746 yards, 12 TDs) has been on a roll as of late, but he will face a solid Browns defense that is led by defensive end Myles Garrett (13 sacks, team has 34). Look for the Jags to feature running back Travis Etienne (726 yards, 8 TDs), which should open up Lawrence to make plays to wide receivers Christian Kirk (56 receptions, 761 yards, 3 TDs) and Calvin Ridley (47 receptions, 663 yards, 5 TDs). The Browns are down to their third QB, so they will hope running back Jerome Ford (628 yards, 3 TDS) has a big day. The Jags continue their roll as they get a big road win in Cleveland. My pick, Jacksonville 23, Cleveland 20

Seattle at San Francisco: The beat up Seahawks visit the surging 49ers on Sunday as SF looks to take control of the NFC West. Seattle will have three extra days to prepare for this one having played a Thursday nighter two weeks ago at Dallas. QB Geno Smith (2,584 yards, 12 TDs/8 interceptions) can use the extra time to mend his injured elbow, and it would help if running back Kenneth Walker III (613 yards, 6 TDs) is back from an oblique injury he suffered three weeks ago. It might not matter against 49ers team that is playing well on defense and has an explosive offense led by QB Brock Purdy (2,871 yards, 19 TDs), running back Christian McCaffrey (939 rushing yards, 11 TDs/48 receptions, 389 yards, 5 TDs), and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (45 receptions, 881 yards, 5 TDs). Look for the 49ers to roll on Sunday. My pick, San Francisco 36, Seattle 17

Buffalo at Kansas City: When the season began, many thought these two teams would once again be in the hunt for the AFC title. Well, the Chiefs certainly are, but the Bills are on the cusp of not even making the playoffs. Injuries on the defense have had a lot to do with Buffalo being a 6-6 team heading into last week’s bye week. They trail Miami by two games in the AFC East and after the KC game, they will still have to face Dallas, the Chargers and Miami. To say head coach Sean McDermott’s seat is getting warm would be an understatement. This should be a highscoring game as Josh Allen (3,214 passing yards, 24 TDs/ 342 rushing yards, 9 TDs) and Patrick Mahomes (2,917 yards, 21 TDs) trade big plays. Both teams have decent running games, with the Bills being led by James Cook (731 yards, 1 TD) and the KC being led by Isiah Pacheco (669 yards, 5 TDs) and both have big-play receivers in Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs (83 receptions, 969 yards, 8 TDs) and KC’s Travis Kelce (70 receptions, 732 yards, 5 TDs). KC has the better and healthier defense and they will be the difference maker at the Bills fall to below .500 on Sunday in KC. My pick, Kansas City 32, Buffalo 26

Denver at Los Angeles Chargers: Don’t look now, but the Denver Broncos are the hottest team in the NFL. Two weeks ago, Sean Payton’s team won its fifth straight game to move within two games of the Chiefs in the AFC West. Denver has received solid play from QB Russell Wilson (2,199 yards, 209 TDs) and big plays from wide receiver Cortland Sutton (48 receptions, 560 yards, 8 TDs) and an opportunistic defense. This week, they visit the underachieving Chargers, who have a load of talent but just can’t seem to win close games. LA has a talented QB in Justin Herbert (2,826 yards, 209 TDs), a versatile running back in Austin Ekeler (428 rushing yards, 4 TDs/29 receptions, 286 yards, 1 TD) and a big–play wide receiver in Keenan Allen who is having one of the best years of his nineyear career (97 receptions, 1,117 yards, 7 TDs). This one should be close, but look for Wilson to make one or two more plays than will Herbert as the Broncos keep on rolling. My pick, Denver 26, Los Angeles Chargers 23

Philadelphia at Dallas: The Game of the Week and a good one for the Sunday Night Football crew pits the Eagles against the Cowboys. These two teams don’t care one bit for one another and this is one of the most heated rivalries in the NFL. A year ago, the Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but the Cowboys rallied for a 40-34 win. This game features two of the hottest QBs in the NFL in Philly’s Jalen Hurts (2,697 passing yards, 18 TDs/410 rushing yards, 11 TDs) and Dallas’ Dak Prescott (2,935 yards, 23 TDs). Both teams have explosive receivers as the Eagles feature A.J. Brown (73 receptions, 1,050 yards, 7 TDs) and DeVonta Smith (55 receptions, 738 yards, 5 TDs) and the Cowboys will counter with CeeDee Lamb (78 receptions, 1,066 yards, 6 TDs) and Brandin Cooks (33 receptions, 452 yards, 4 TDs). After a slow start to the season, Cooks has been on fire the last four weeks. Dallas has the edge at tight end with second-year man Jake Ferguson (40 receptions, 421 yards, 4 TDs). Two weeks ago, the Eagles rallied in the rain at home to defeat Buffalo on Hurts TD run in overtime, while the Cowboys dominated Washington 45-10 on Thanksgiving Day. There should be plenty of big plays in this one, so the team that plays the best on defense should come out on top. The Eagles are beat up on that side of the ball, while the Cowboys are rolling behind Micah Parsons (11.5 sacks, team has 37). Dallas knows if it hopes to catch the Eagles in the NFC East race they must win on Sunday and it says here they will get the job done. My pick, Dallas 31, Philadelphia 27

Tennessee at Miami: The Dolphins high-scoring offense gets to strut its stuff in prime time on Monday Night Football and I have a feeling they won’t disappoint those who will be watching. Miami has weapons all over the field led by QB Tua Tagovailoa (3,177 yards, 22 TDs), running back Raheem Mostert (785 yards, 15 total TDs) and speedy wideouts Tyreek Hill (88 receptions, 1,324 yards, 10 TDs) and Jalen Waddle (52 receptions, 691 yards, 3 TDs). The Titans are in rebuild mode, which means this one could get ugly early. My pick, Miami 36, Tennessee 13