Notwithstanding reduced crowds, COVID-19, and boycotts, Texans and Cowboys are playoff bound
By Johnny Trlica
Commentary: Some may ask, “What’s a gay publication know about professional football? They should stick to stories about over the top drag queens, gay bars and their new menus, and Cher/Madonna/Lady Gaga news.”
Critics saying those kinds of remarks have apparently never been to George Sports bar or Tony’s Corner Pocket when a Texans’ game is being played. It’s not unusual to find the gridiron sport on all television screens in the taverns while many fans are adorned in full team regalia, pom-poms and all.
This year in football as in all sports has been unique to say the least. The Texans began the year by building a 24-0 lead over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Game. Houston fans were thinking this is the year we finally win a Super Bowl. That is, until the Patrick Mahomes led Chiefs rallied for a 51-31 victory. Thump!
That loss did not end dreams of a Houston football championship in 2020. In February, the Roughnecks began play in the resurrected XFL, with offensive mastermind June Jones as head coach. The club was undefeated halfway through the season at 5-0 as dreams of a championship season were crushed when the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. The league filed for bankruptcy with The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, purchasing the XFL. It remains to be seen if the Roughnecks return in 2021.
Now football is back, and the Texans begin the 2020-21 season with a rematch on Thursday, September 10 against the team that dashed their dreams of glory last season. The defending Super Bowl champions’ game at Arrowhead Stadium can host up to 22 percent capacity to allow for social distancing. That means about 15,000 fans will be in attendance.
Having even a few fans in the stands is an upgrade from the cardboard cutouts at Astros’ games and the piped-in sounds at the NBA games. Those artificial environment enhancements make the plastic flowers in the Astrodome seem natural.
The Texans will have similar measures in place for their home opener on September 20 against the Baltimore Ravens. The team released a statement reading, “All fans will be asked to follow social distancing guidelines which will reduce our capacity at NRG Stadium to approximately 14,000 seats throughout all levels. In addition, for the safety of our fans, players and coaches, the first eight rows of the lower level will not be made available for sale.”
The Texans have agreed to a four-year, $160 million contract extension with quarterback Deshaun Watson. The total value of the deal is $177.54 million with nearly $111 million in guarantees, trailing only quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ (why does his name keep popping up?) 12-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs as the largest in NFL history.
Major league sports have indicated support for Black Lives Matter and racial equality through kneeling for the National Anthem, logos on uniforms, and in other ways. Those actions have prompted threats of boycotts from some fans with comments like, “Until the NFL takes politics out of the game, I won’t be watching.” When did basic human equality become about politics and not civil rights?
The NFL cancelled all pre-season games making it difficult to project how strong some teams will be, but we are giving it our best shot right here.
One must feel bad for the team from the nation’s capital. The club known as the Washington Redskins since 1937 finally realized the racism in its moniker but couldn’t decide on a new name. Can we just call them WTF? Washington Team Football — what did you think we were saying? The Cowboys will struggle adjusting to a new coach.
Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
New York Giants (7-9)
Washington Football Team (4-12)
The Vikings seem to always disappoint but we’ll pick them to win this weak division.
Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
Green Bay Packers (9-7)
Chicago Bears (7-9)
Detroit Lions (5-11)
Tom Brady brought along his former Patriots favorite receiver Rob Gronkowski making the Bucs a heavy favorite, but don’t rule out the Saints.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)
New Orleans Saints (11-5)
Atlanta Falcons (9-7)
Carolina Panthers (6-10)
The Rams begin play in their new $5 billion home, and the Seahawks should upend defending NFC champion San Francisco.
Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
San Francisco 49ers (10-6)
Los Angeles Rams (9-7)
Arizona Cardinals (6-10)
Without the previously mentioned Brady, the Bills finally dethrone the Patriots.
Buffalo Bills (10-6)
New England Patriots (9-7)
New York Jets (5-11)
Miami Dolphins (3-13)
A healthy Ben Roethlisberger will not be enough for the Steelers to overtake the Ravens.
Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
Cleveland Browns (8-8)
Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)
KC will have this division wrapped up by Thanksgiving. All eyes will be watching to see if the Chiefs will repeat, and Patrick Mahomes isn’t bad on the eyes, either. Oakland has lost the Raiders to Las Vegas.
Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
Denver Broncos (8-8)
Los Angeles Chargers (7-9)
Las Vegas Raiders (6-10)
The Texans will be looking to win their fifth division title in the last six years. Without a good play-off run this will probably be Bill O’Brien’s last season with the franchise.
Houston Texans (10-6)
Indianapolis Colts (7-9)
Tennessee Titans (6-10)
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12)
AFC playoff predictions
Ravens, Browns, Steelers, Texans, Patriots and Bills. (Chiefs earn a bye week.)
AFC championship game: Chiefs over Texans. (Sorry, the Chiefs are that good.)
NFC playoff predictions
Buccaneers, 49ers, Cowboys, Eagles, Saints, and Vikings. (Seahawks earn a bye week.)
NFC championship game: Seahawks over Buccaneers
Super Bowl LV prediction
Chiefs 45, Seahawks 24