The Tennessee Titans have reported eight positive virus tests.
It may not surprise you that the two teams that tangle on Thursday Night Football this week are still looking for their first win of the season. That would be the Denver Broncos and New York Jets, two squads that few figured good things for this season.
But, it is surprising that two teams that participated in the playoffs last year, both even won a postseason game, are still looking for their initial win of 2020 four weeks into the regular season. Those two teams are the Minnesota Vikings, who downed the New Orleans Saints on the road last January in a Wild Card Game, and the Houston Texans, who beat the Buffalo Bills during the same postseason week.
What is going on in Minnesota and Houston? If they continue to lose, coaches that were expected to build on last season’s success might find themselves out of a job.
Bill O’Brien runs the Texans, Mike Zimmer is the man in charge of the Vikings. Both coaches came into this season with ownership already poised to pull the lever on their coaching careers if their teams didn’t show a deeper run into the playoffs. The fact that neither has been able to even manage a single win in six combined tries, is a surefire way to get management on the edge of making a change.
So, do either of these teams have a chance to recover? Have they just slid in and out of situations that dedicated tough spots to win?
The Texans had an excuse on opening day, they were headed back to Arrowhead Stadium to battle the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, a team they built a 24-0 lead over in last year’s Divisional round only to trail in the same game before halftime and lose by double-digits. Only one team has won on the road against a defending Super Bowl Champion since the league adopted the defending champion opening the season at home in a prime time contest. That would be the New York Giants, who were beaten by the Dallas Cowboys to open the 2012 season after winning Super Bowl XLVI over the New England Patriots.
Okay, no panic in Houston based on getting beat by the still undefeated Chiefs. But what has happened since to the Texans? In second week action, Houston hosted the Baltimore Ravens, a team that earned the top seed in the American Football Conference playoffs last year. No shame in getting beat by John Harbaugh’s strong Ravens squad.
Which brings us to last week, when Houston traveled to Pittsburgh to meet the Steelers at Heinz Field. While the Steelers are one of the league’s six undefeated teams, the Texans were in a prime good spot to hand Mike Tomlin’s squad their first loss of the season, and they failed in that quest.
Houston, we have a problem.
While some will look at losses against Kansas City, Baltimore and Pittsburgh as excusable defeats, falling in all three games demonstrates two things; the Texans have proven they can’t overcome a bad situation or win in a good one.
How about the Vikings?
They lost their home opener, but it was against a Green Bay Packers team that has demonstrated it can win in both tough and easy spots. The Packers followed their opening win at U.S. Bank Stadium with triumphs over the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints. The Packers are right now one of the top four teams in the league.
Okay, we’ll acknowledge on opening day the Vikings were simply beat by a better team. How about second week action? The Vikings caught the Indianapolis Colts at a horrible time to pick up a win, with Philip Rivers and his new team coming off a loss in Jacksonville to the talent-challenged Jaguars. Which puts the Vikings in a must win spot last week, and while they lost to the Tennessee Titans straight-up, they did cover their first point spread while getting 2½ points on the line and losing by one, 31-30.
This was a good spot for the Vikings, and despite the point spread win the lack of earning a straight up victory does not bode well for Zimmer’s job security.
One of these two winless teams is going to get a victory this Sunday in Houston, and while the Texans are favored on the point spread, the one thing Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins has shown he can do is beat teams with losing records. He has also shown throughout his career with Minnesota and Washington that he has a lot of trouble beating a team with a winning record. After last week’s loss to the Titans, Cousins is now 7-32 against teams with more wins than losses.
As long as the game is not on a Monday night, where Cousins is 0-9, or against a team with a winning record, Cousins has a real shot at getting the Vikings a win. Which is the situation on Sunday in Houston.
Qoxhi Picks: Minnesota Vikings (+3½) over Houston Texans