The only way the Houston Texans can move up from the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoff picture is if they win on Sunday and watch the Los Angeles Chargers (5-10) upset the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4), who are also playing to either retain or boost their seeding.
In other words, it’s unlikely. So despite coach Bill O’Brien’s insistence throughout the week that the Texans would do everything they can to win their Week 17 rematch with the Tennessee Titans, including potentially playing starters, the team now intends to rest both quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins — among others — ahead of the postseason.
That’s according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, who reported Sunday morning that Watson will serve as the backup to AJ McCarron against Tennessee, while Hopkins will be active but limited in snaps. Both big-name players entered the weekend listed as questionable on the Texans’ injury report (Watson with a back injury and Hopkins with an illness), so it was already a possibility they wouldn’t see much time in Sunday’s game. A number of other key players, like WR Kenny Stills, left tackle Laremy Tunsil and cornerback Bradley Roby, are also questionable for the regular-season finale.
This should ring as important news for fans of both the Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers. Tennessee needs to beat the Texans in order to clinch the final spot in the AFC playoff picture, and now it’ll have the chance to do so against mostly Texans backups. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, needs both a win against the Baltimore Ravens and a Titans loss to Houston to make it in, meaning the Steelers will be pulling for McCarron, an old AFC North rival, to help them punch their ticket to the postseason.
A backup for the Cincinnati Bengals for the first four years of his career, McCarron was once speculated as a successor to Andy Dalton in Ohio, particularly after a productive three-start stretch in 2015. After landing his first crack at a No. 1 job with the Buffalo Bills in 2018, however, he was sidelined with a preseason shoulder injury, then traded to the Oakland Raiders before the start of the season, throwing just three passes in relief of Derek Carr throughout the year. The Alabama product has thrown just one pass backing up Watson in 2019 thus far.