The Houston Texans finally saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end with last weekend's home loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Still, the Texans (9-4) remain in control of their own destiny with three games left to play. Houston has a chance to wrap up the AFC South title with a win at the New York Jets on Saturday afternoon -- and a little help. It currently holds a two-game lead over Indianapolis and Tennessee in the division.
The Texans remain in the mix for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs, but head coach Bill O'Brien is more concerned with getting his players focused on the Jets due to a shorter week of preparation.
"I'm worried about the Jets," O'Brien said after the 24-21 loss to the Colts. "I think it's important for me to answer your questions about the previous game so I'm not going to sit up here and just ignore those questions because I do think in some ways, those apply to this game. But I'm not focused on anything other than correcting the mistakes from that game and then moving on to the Jets."
Houston, the first NFL team to win nine games in a row following an 0-3 start to the season, plays its next two away from home, and is treating the streak as history instead of putting it into any historical perspective. The nine-game run also marked a franchise record.
"Win or lose the previous week, it's 0-0. You're only as good as what you do (with) the next opportunity," Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson said. "So, a new opportunity for us to be able to go out there and perform, try to get a W and do what the Houston Texans usually do."
Watson, who saw his rookie season end due to a torn ACL last year, is on the verge of leading Houston to 10 wins for the first time during O'Brien's tenure. He has thrown for 3,298 yards with 22 touchdowns against nine interceptions while completing 66.9 percent of his passes.
The No. 12 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Watson has posted at least a 100.0 passer rating in four of his last six starts. After playing three straight at home, he repeatedly used the word "opportunity" as a chance to get back on track.
"Just because we're going up to New York, it doesn't make any difference if we were playing in another city," said Watson. "It's a great opportunity for myself and for this team to go out there and perform at a high level. There's always new levels and new opportunities for us to get better, and that's what we're going to try to do."
New York saw a lengthy losing streak come to an end last weekend, halting a string of six straight defeats with a dramatic 27-23 road win over the Buffalo Bills.
"We (are) on another level now," Jets safely Jamal Adams said after New York won for the first time since Oct. 14 and avenged a 41-10 shellacking by Buffalo last month. "We were in here partying now. We finally got a win. It was just great to have that feeling back."
Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft, returned to the lineup after missing the past three games due to a sprained right foot and guided his team on a winning touchdown drive with 77 seconds remaining.
Darnold, who was intercepted four times in his previous game, made a pair of dazzling throws in the fourth quarter. He spun out of pressure and delivered a perfect scoring strike to Robby Anderson to tie it at 20-20. Then, on the winning drive, Darnold connected with Anderson on a 37-yard pass down the right sideline to set up Elijah McGuire's 1-yard plunge.
"As a kid, you dream of converting two-minute drives and going down there and scoring," Darnold said. "To be able to score a touchdown and put the ball in their hands at the end of the game was awesome."
Said Anderson: "With Sam Darnold, (the future), is as bright as the summer sun."
Watson has one of the league's elite receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, who has 1,151 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. However, Watson is a dual threat out of the backfield and part of a rushing attack led by Lamar Miller that ranks third in the NFL (136.8).
They will provide a tough matchup for New York's defense, which is 27th against the run at 132.0 yards per game.