After Sunday night's 13-6 road victory over the Chicago Bears—and with the Atlanta Falcons finally falling to the New Orleans Saints, 31-27—the Houston Texans headline the conversation of the NFL's best team right now.
At 8-1, and with a plus-107 point differential (second only to the Bears at plus-109), the Texans' argument now includes wins over the aforementioned Bears, Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens. Other than Week 14's road tilt with New England Patriots, Houston should be favored in each game to close the 2012 season.
Linebacker Brian Cushing tore his ACL in a Week 5 victory over the New York Jets. The Texans were promptly thumped at home 42-24 at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, raising questions as to whether or not this team would be able to overcome this injury—something that has prevented Houston from getting over the hump in the past.
Since that time, however, the Texans have reeled off three victories by a combined score of 77-28, squashing any doubts about this team at the moment.
The offense is as efficient as any in the league, scoring 27.8 points (fifth in the NFL) on just 354.3 yards per game (only 17th in the league). Couple that with a defense that ranks in the top three in yards and points allowed, and Houston only reinforces its argument as the NFL's best team.
This battle-tested group can rely on its defense as the offense catches up. With guys like Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson around, that shouldn't take too long.
Holding a one-game lead, and the tiebreaker, over the Baltimore Ravens gives the Texans some breathing room in the AFC.
If the NFL has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected and that there will be no paper champion crowned at the end of the season.
What the Texans have taught us, however, is that they are finally ready to turn all that potential into a sustained postseason run.