AFC stock reports: Texans look sloppy, Steelers hit the wall

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 22: Tyreek Hill #10 (L) and Damien Williams #26 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrate a touchdown run by Williams against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 22, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chiefs defeated the Bears 26-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 22: Tyreek Hill #10 (L) and Damien Williams #26 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrate a touchdown run by Williams against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 22, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chiefs defeated the Bears 26-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
2 of 4

AFC Week 16 recap

There was very little change to the AFC playoff picture in Week 16. However, there were plenty of storylines that are worth noting. As we prepare for the playoffs, teams need to be gaining momentum right now. That’s not the case for some teams near the bottom of the playoff picture or in the hunt.

Houston Texans defeat Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Houston Texans clinched the AFC South with their victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the type of performance that gives fans optimism for the road ahead. It was a sloppy game for Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense. Against the number one run defense, Houston elected to run the ball continuously despite not having success. Running back Carlos Hyde ran the ball 17 times for a mere 27 yards. They ran the ball 16 times on first downs while only throwing the ball nine times.

Wide receiver Will Fuller left the game in the third quarter with a groin injury. Fuller is a vital part of this offense, as everyone could see in the second half as the team scored six points in the second half. Without him on the field, there are little weapons to not only take the top off the defense but take attention away from DeAndre Hopkins. Watson finished the day throwing 19 of 32 for 184 yards, 1 touchdown, and 37 yards on the ground on eight carries.

One could argue that the Texans won against a team coming off a four-game win streak. That’s true, but when your defense causes 5 turnovers (and scores a touchdown on one of those with a pick-six), it’s hard to feel good about Houston in the playoffs. It’s been a wild season for the Texans as the team has looked unstoppable on offense in some games while looking sloppy and dysfunctional in other games.

10. 20. 48. Final. 23

Buffalo Bills fall short to the New England Patriots

Rarely do the Buffalo Bills have an opportunity to play the New England Patriots for first place in the AFC East late in the season. That was the case this weekend as the Bills were one game behind the New England Patriots. Of course, the Patriots would have had to lose in Week 17 to the Miami Dolphins for that wish to come true. Buffalo has not won the AFC East since 1995.

The Bills were on the receiving end of criticism midway through the season with a good record, but an easy schedule. In the second half of the season, Buffalo has proven worthy of being a playoff team with some solid performances. Second-year quarterback Josh Allen has shown development throughout the season, but his inconsistencies continue to be his worst enemy. That was the case in New England.

Multiple times throughout the game, we saw Allen make jaw-dropping plays that only a select few quarterbacks can make followed up by missed opportunities on easier throws. Those easier throws in critical moments of the game have been an issue a few different times this year. Buffalo’s offense was invisible until the final two minutes of the first half when Allen made a remarkable throw to Dawson Knox, setting the team up for a touchdown going into halftime tied. Coming out of the break, the offense continued to have ups and downs.

One example of the inconsistency would be in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. After gaining a first down on fourth and one in Patriots territory running 22 yards, Allen went on to get stuffed on the run, overthrow Knox, and get sacked on third down. On fourth-and-goal from the 15-yard line, he threw the ball up for grabs in the back of the end zone to be batted down. Allen finished the day throwing 13 of 26 for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns while rushing for another 43 yards.

16. 24. 47. Final. 17

Tennessee Titans unable to beat the New Orleans Saints

Despite losing to the New Orleans Saints, the Tennessee Titans have taken over the sixth seed in the AFC thanks to the New York Jets. Tennessee had a chance to take the lead late in the game following a failed fake punt attempt by the Saints. Getting the ball with just over four minutes left in the game, Ryan Tannehill hit Kalif Raymond to get to the New Orleans 40-yard line. Sadly for the Titans, rookie safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson drilled Raymond knocking the ball loose.

Tennessee was without their star running back Derrick Henry, but that seemed to have little effect on the offense. Ryan Tannehill threw 17 of 27 for 272 yards and three touchdowns, while the offense picked up 149 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Even with Henry sidelined and A.J. Brown only catching one pass for 34 yards, you wouldn’t know that those were the top two playmakers on this offense watching them Sunday.

Even though Tennessee is coming off of back-to-back losses, they look like a team that could be a very tough out in the playoffs. It’s hard to not come away from this game impressed with a Tennessee team that had no identity midway through the season, to hanging with the Saints until a fumble late in the game.

28. 35. Final. 38. 15

Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves outside of the (current) playoff picture

The Steelers have been an incredible story in 2019. Losing longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin has kept this team alive the entire season with embarrassing quarterbacks filling in. Pittsburgh was the center of jokes after trading their 2020 first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick. Retrospect has shown that Fitzpatrick is one of the major pieces on this dominant Steeler defense, which has kept the team alive all season.

Devlin Hodges and the Steelers traveled to play the New York Jets, who have been a laughing stock for most of the season. Tomlin elected to bench Hodges following two interceptions early in the game. Mason Rudolph would come in to get the team tied at 10 going into halftime. Unfortunately, he would then go down with an injury late in the game, and Hodges was unable to help as the Steelers would not score in the second half.

Sitting at 8-7, they will have to not only have to travel and beat their divisional opponent, the Baltimore Ravens but will also need the Tennessee Titans to lose in Week 17. An ugly performance in Week 16 makes it a very tough path to get back into the Wild Card round.

55. 16. 30. Final. 10