Coming out of a bye week with a 7-3 record and a commanding lead in the AFC South, the first playoff berth in Houston Texans history seemed guaranteed before Pro Bowl QB Matt Schaub was ruled out for the season with a Lisfranc injury in his throwing foot.
Now, the Texans' season comes down to backup QB Matt Leinart, who will at least need to manage a game for their powerful ground attack without making too many mistakes. Houston is still in the top 5 of SBNation's latest NFL Power Rankings, but whether they stay there might depend on the erratic former USC Heisman Trophy winner:
5. Houston Texans (7-3, LW: 4): The Matt Schaub hurts. Big time. We'll see next week if Matt Leinart can do an adequate job replacing him. We'll see how he does before adjusting their ranking too much.
After being drafted No. 10 out of USC in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, Leinart struggled through an inconsistent rookie season, starting 12 games and completing only 56.8% of his passes with 12 TD's and 21 INT's.
With Kurt Warner in the fold, the Cardinals, a perennial playoff contender, lost patience with Leinart and never gave him another chance to win back the starting job.
Now, in his sixth year in the NFL, Leinart has a chance to prove his critics wrong. After all, if Alex Smith can turn a corner in his seventh season as a starter in San Francisco, there's no reason Leinart can't either.
For the latest news and notes on the Texans, check out Battle Red Blog.