The Texans look to extend their franchise-high winning streak to five games when they visit the lowly Raiders on Sunday.
Though Houston (7-7) must wait until 2009 for a shot at securing the franchise’s first playoff appearance, it still has a chance at finishing with a winning record for the first time since entering the NFL in 2002.
The Texans, who haven’t lost since falling 33-27 at Indianapolis on Nov. 16, need a win over Oakland (3-11) to match last season’s club record for victories and one over Chicago at home next weekend to close the year with a winning mark.
“We all know what our goal is and we’re going to fall short of that this year, we’re not going to be a playoff team,” said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, whose team started 0-4. “But there’s no doubt in my mind we’re a better football team now.”
Houston proved Kubiak right with a 13-12 home win over Tennessee last Sunday to hand the AFC-leading Titans their second loss of the season.
“It’s good to beat the best team in football,” Houston linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “It was a huge game for us and I think our confidence level is rising every week. Guys are playing with a lot more swagger.”
Pro Bowler Andre Johnson caught 11 passes for a career-high 207 yards and a touchdown against the Titans. The NFL’s leader in receptions (103) and receiving yards (1,408) needs one catch to break his own franchise record set in 2006.
Running back Steve Slaton rushed for 100 yards on 24 carries. The rookie from West Virginia has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his last three games and has 1,124 with eight touchdowns on the season.
Defensively, the Texans held Tennessee to 281 total yards and without a touchdown for the first time in 2008. Houston, which ranks 23rd in the league allowing 24.5 points per game, has given up an average of 14.0 during its current winning streak.
The Texans have a chance to continue their current run of success as they try to improve to 4-0 against Oakland, which looks to avoid losing at least 12 games for the fourth straight year.
Houston won 24-17 at Oakland last November and faces a Raiders team that has lost three in a row overall and four straight at home.
The latest setback on the East Bay came last Sunday, a 49-26 loss to New England in which the Raiders trailed 35-14 at halftime and allowed the most first-half points by the club since the merger in 1970.
“It’s tough to tell the guys to keep fighting, just to keep pushing, that things are going to turn around,” said quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who threw two TD passes for Oakland. “Everybody looks at each other like, ‘When?’ It’s really depressing.”
Oakland allowed a season-high 277 rushing yards against the Patriots and has given up an average of 167.1 yards per game rushing this season. By allowing 400 rushing yards in the final two games, this season’s unit has a chance to become the worst in Raiders’ history versus against run.
“It’s very frustrating,” said defensive lineman Derrick Burgess of the Raiders, who have been outscored 110-45 during their current losing streak at McAfee Coliseum. “I’ve been here four years. It’s the same defense. We’ve been running the same defense for four years. To still have these same kinds of problems is hard to explain.”
Justin Miller returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown against New England, one week after returning one 92 yards for a score in a 34-7 loss at San Diego.