Vikings 23, Texans 6

J.J. Watt just needs to get married like Wonder Ponder: AFC playoff truths . . . er, overreactions

J.J. Watt just needs to get married like Wonder Ponder: AFC playoff truths . . . er, overreactions

J.J. Watt staredown
Would J.J. Watt be having a staredown if he was happily married? Probably not. Or something like that . . .  Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Christian Ponder happy
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is estaic. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Distraught Texans fan
Houston Texans fans are distraught. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Danieal Manning Adrian Peterson
But should they be? The Texans defense showed flashes of its old, snarly attitude. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Gary Kubiak play card
Especially against superhuman running back Adrian Peterson. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Christian Ponder throw it away
Sure, Christian Ponder made a few plays — and unexpected throwaways. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Andre Johnson Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson and Andre Johnson — two of the most even keel stars in football — might have a better grasp on reality though. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
J.J. Watt staredown
Christian Ponder happy
Distraught Texans fan
Danieal Manning Adrian Peterson
Gary Kubiak play card
Christian Ponder throw it away
Andre Johnson Adrian Peterson

Maybe J.J. Watt just needs to get married. Surely, he can find a nice, willing weather girl . . .

Or a sexy cheese scientist from Wisconsin.

No. 99 getting hitched could clearly solve the Houston Texans' problems. After all, it's worked wonders for Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.

One minute, Ponder is a middling second-year quarterback getting carried around by Adrian Peterson, possessing about the same Q Rating as the guy who plays Jerry on Parks and Recreation. Then, he marries a stunning ESPN sideline reporter/host and . . . he's beating the Houston Texans 23-6.

 "The thing about this team is that when we've got our backs against the wall, we always come out swinging. It's when things are going good that we should be concerned." 

In the happy din of the visitor's locker room at Reliant Stadium, Ponder's coach tells him he should get married every day. Why not, if you can play like this against the Bulls On Parade?

"I don't know if my wife would like that," Ponder reasons.

Well, there is that. But surely Samantha Steele will understand if it means the Minnesota Vikings get more wins like this, make a Cinderella run to the Super Bowl.

Just as certainly, J.J. Watt's close-knit family unit will embrace a shotgun wedding of his own if it guarantees the Texans regain their mojo and relocate their Yellow Brick Road to New Orleans. Which it almost assuredly would . . .

Probably . . . At least, a 50-percent chance.

Absurd? Of course, but little more so than the real furious panic arising from the Texans loss in a largely meaningless game. Yes, a largely meaningless game. As I wrote last week, the Texans only needed to go 1-1 in their final two games to secure homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Everyone in their locker room knew that. No matter how many media outlets tried to cast the Vikings game as a virtual must win.

Yes, it would have been easier to play better against Minnesota — or at least crack 200 yards of total offense — and remove the suspense a week early. But when have you known this team to do anything the easy way?

The Texans of Gary Kubiak, Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, J.J. Watt and Wade Phillips are like modern day Evil Knievel's, forever asking for more greater, grander obstacles to be placed in their path.

 The Colts would be crazy to let Watt have more shots at Andrew Luck. 

"The thing about this team is that when we've got our backs against the wall, we always come out swinging," linebacker Bradie James says. "It's when things are going good that we should be concerned."

James laughs. He's somewhat kidding. But he also knows it's the truth.

This is James' first season in Houston and yet he diagnoses the Texans with a skill any TV psychiatrist would envy.

It's like the fans who roundly booed Sunday afternoon (starting in the first quarter? at a 12-3 team? really?) have never seen the Texans play before.

Does no one remember the end of last season? Those Texans looked much more lost than this team. They dropped their last three games of the regular season after clinching a playoff berth in Cincinnati. They were down to their third-string quarterback and often looked like they'd need a Garmin to ever find the end zone again.

Almost everyone wrote them off as a nonfactor going into the postseason.

And what happened? They put up 31 points in a first round home win, threaten to blow the roof off Reliant. They push the Baltimore Ravens to the absolute limit on the road the next week (if Jacoby Jones doesn't touch a punt he never should have been near or if T.J. Yates connects on just one more of his forced heaves to Andre Johnson, that flawed team is playing the Patriots for a Super Bowl berth).

You don't think this more talented, more experienced, Schaub-quarterbacked team will be similarly re-energized by the playoffs? Especially, if the Texans secure that first-round bye and get a week to rest?

And yes, these Texans are going to beat Indianapolis on Sunday to grab that break and homefield. It's what they do.

"We always respond," safety Glover Quin, who actually played great against Adrian Peterson on Sunday, says. "And we're going to respond in Indy."

"Bear with us," says receiver Kevin Walter, the usually smiley receiver looking and acting like he'd gladly volunteer for 12 rounds with a vintage Mike Tyson on this day. "We're going to get it done next week."

Do you really think a Indianapolis Colts team that is already locked into its playoff spot is going to beat a Houston team with a huge chip to play for?

Yes, the Texans have never won in Indianapolis, as you'll hear again and again this week. So what? A Texans team has also never won six road games before this one did it. They'll make it seven road wins, too.

The Colts would be crazy to let Watt have more shots at Andrew Luck. The rookie will be sitting — to save his confidence as much as his body.

"I don't think we've lost the swagger," Texans safety Danieal Manning says.

They haven't. They just misplaced their sense of urgency. It happens. To the best of teams.

Preacher J.J. Watt

Look, no one enjoys a good panic mongering more than me. I'm the guy who proudly declaredTexans will rue the night they took Pizza Boy J.J. Watt over Nick Fairley, Houston lover on Draft Night 2011.

But I just don't see the sky falling here. What, the Texans are suddenly supposed to think they're inferior to a Broncos team they beat because Peyton Manning hasn't played a decent team since before President Obama was reelected?

"We're a 12-3 football team," Watt says. "We’re going to get things corrected. We’re going to have a great week of practice. We’re going to be very focused.

"And we’re going to come out next week and go earn ourselves homefield advantage."

Preacher Watt is right.

The Texans will recover their mojo in a downtown that's largely a glorified strip mall next Sunday and roll right into the playoffs.

Especially if J.J. Watt gets married beforehand. Then . . . well then, it's guaranteed.