The Houston Texans (7-3) are poised to make the playoffs this season, especially considering the Colts (0-10) are not in the AFC South race. They have been missing key players all season, including Mario Williams, Andre Johnson, and even Arian Foster for a few games, but injury news came out following Sunday’s win over the Bucs that will have the greatest impact on the team yet.
Matt Schaub is out, possibly for the entire season, after injuring the Lisfranc joint in his right foot. If it requires surgery, he will definitely miss the rest of the season.
His backup, Matt Leinart, is now taking over the reigns of a team who is among the best in the AFC. They have the most complete team in their franchise’s history, and cannot afford to waste their great start.
Leinart has not seen much success in the NFL since his arrival in 2006. He was a Heisman Trophy and National Champion at USC, but he has not seen his success in college translate to success in the NFL.
He has only been his team’s main starter for one season, and it was in his rookie year in Arizona. He started 11 games and went 4-7 with 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He took over for Kurt Warner that season, but would ultimately lose his job to Warner once Dennis Green was fired and Ken Whisenhunt took over in 2007.
Leinart was on the bench to watch Warner lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl in 2008 and left Arizona following the 2010 preseason, after the team released him.
Heading into Houston, Leinart was expected to be nothing more than be Matt Schaub’s backup, but he has a far more important role now. He must lead the Texans into the playoffs and avoid a collapse that would see the Texans blow their two game lead in the division.
He will have much more help than he did in Arizona, which will take the pressure off of him immensely. On offense, he has weapons in Arian Foster and Ben Tate, who can easily rush for 100 yards a game a piece. Leinart also will have Andre Johnson to throw to, as he is expected to return for the team’s next game in Jacksonville (follwing a bye week this Sunday).
On defense, the Texans have the second ranked pass defense along with the fifth ranked rush defense. They can also hold teams to few points, as the most points they have allowed in the last four games is 14.
The remaining schedule also favors Leinart and his chances of taking the Texans to the playoffs. After their bye this Sunday, they play Jacksonville, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Carolina, Indianapolis, and Tennessee. All of these games seem winnable, and the Texans have already beaten each team in their division this season, so there is no reason why they can’t beat them again, even with Leinart at the helm.
This stretch of games, and possibly the playoffs, will define Leinart’s career. If he comes out and plays awfully, and costs the Texans a playoff berth, he will have a very tough time finding a job in the future. If he plays good enough to get the team to the playoffs, he can possibly end up as another Matt Schaub or Matt Cassel, a player who was a backup and was then signed as a starter by another team.
Leinart will have an extra week to prepare for his new role and get accustomed to being the starter. It will be the defining moment of his career, and hopefully, for him and Texans fans alike, it will be a positive moment.