The Monday Tavern

What can the Houston Texans do to avoid the curse of the Colts? Building a large lead in the first half and then watching it disappear, as they did Sunday against the Colts, takes a toll on a team, on the coaching staff and, most of all, the fans.

Did anyone who watched the game actually think the Texans were going to win it? I know Matt “I love me some Texans” Bowen was not optimistic in spite of the big lead. Bowen, for all of his kind acts, is a tough guy, and he knows the Texans are not tough. That’s what made our bet so strange from my viewpoint — how could a tough guy not see that a team isn’t tough? We all make mistakes about teams (me with the Giants), so not seeing the Texans’ lack of toughness is understandable. But now it’s in full force for the world to see, and head coach Gary Kubiak has an enormous challenge getting his team back and believing in his ability as they travel to Jacksonville. Technically, they’re still alive in the playoff race, but we all know my fat butt is headed to Amsterdam to see Springsteen because the Texans have no chance to regroup. I’m already working on my sight-seeing itinerary while in Amsterdam.

Successful teams all have one thing in common: They get their personality from someone on the team, whether it’s the quarterback or a defensive leader. There is always a strong force in the locker room that is a talented player along with naturally talented leader. There is a sense of determination coming from the leader, and right now the Texans are void of this kind of player. Matt Schaub is a very good quarterback, but he doesn’t have the charisma or leadership skills to take over the team. He cannot command, but he can play effectively, which is fine. He’s very much like former Bucs</a> quarterback Vinnie Testaverde in terms of not being the leader of the team but a good player nonetheless. The Texans must draw their toughness from other sources, and that will be their challenge in the offseason because right now it’s not in their locker room.

The Saints changed their personality last offseason with their determination to run the ball and have a physical camp, and it has paid dividends. The Texans need to closely examine the Saints’ course of action and how they repaired their lack of toughness and follow suit. They have a great offensive system that can score points, but they must add an element of toughness because winning football requires tough-minded people — just like our man Matt Bowen.

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON SUNDAY’S GAMES…

1. Houston forced the Colts into just six third downs all day. Six. Most teams get 12 per game, and yet the Colts had 28 first downs. Hard for a defense to get off the field if you can’t get into a third down.

2. The Colts are now three games up with five to play for home field advantage through the playoffs. Beating the Texas without Dwight Freeney was remarkable, but Robert Mathis picked up the slack, pressuring Schaub all day.

3. The 49ers entered the season only wanting to throw the ball sparingly, but that proved to be a bad plan. Yesterday, without a running game, they threw the ball well without turning it over. They had only one penalty for the day and were 50 percent on third downs. They let the Jags lose the game by committing two turnovers and missing two field goals.

4. Jay Cutler is not the only thing wrong with the Bears right now. They allowed the Vikings to have 83 plays and gain over 500 yards. The Bears are not good enough at many positions.

5. How come no one ever mentions Philip Rivers in the MVP race? What more can a player do to help his team win? He was great yesterday with his third 300-yard passing day of the season.

6. The Bengals learned something on their West Coast trip: When playing an inferior opponent, just protect the ball, be sound and don’t make mistakes. They managed the game against the Browns correctly, and although it might not have been pretty, it was effective.

7. Does anyone but Yahoo Dave think the Jets have a chance to make the playoffs? I’m just asking.

8. Jake Delhomme has the worst luck of any quarterback. Throwing the interception to Darrelle Revis was a one-in-a-million shot. For whatever reason, interceptions follow Delhomme around.

9. I admire how hard and physical the Redskins play, even though they’re playing for a lame-duck coach and have no playoff possibilities. They are not an easy team for any offense, and I fully expect them to upset either the Cowboys or the Giants. The Eagles, who beat the ‘Skins twice, are my favorite to win the NFC East.

10. I’ve seen enough of Michael Vick and the wildcat for the Eagles. But I have not seen enough of Jason Avant, a really good player with toughness to make those inside catches.

11. The Dolphins have lost too many players to be a playoff contender now. Once Ronnie Brown went down and then Jason Ferguson, they lost two core players. The Fins do not have enough skill on offense to compensate for losing Brown.

12. Tonight this should be a great game as the Patriots are going to have to prove they can win on the road and the Saints want to prove they’re the best team in the NFL. It will be a great chess match, but when you have two very smart coaches, these games normally come down to which team is playing with sound fundamentals and execution. Winning at this time of year requires not making mistakes and being sound — so don’t look for anything fancy from the Patriots. They’ll just do their jobs.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

For a detailed Patriots-Saints analysis, check out this article from Bleacher Report.

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