Morry Gash
December 07, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) The playoffs are starting early for the Houston Texans.

At least that's what coach Bill O'Brien and players are telling themselves after three straight losses capped by Sunday's 21-13 defeat at Green Bay has erased their lead in the AFC South.

''Moving forward, every game is a playoff game, starting next week in Indianapolis,'' quarterback Brock Osweiler said. ''We know how important every single week is.''

The Texans (6-6) have led their division all season, but their first three-game skid since October 2014 has them with the same record as Tennessee.

And a win by Indianapolis on Monday night against the New York Jets would leave the Colts at 6-6, too.

Despite the matching records, Houston holds the tiebreaker with a 3-0 division mark.

Despite that, Houston knows it has to get back on track quickly if it hopes to secure its second consecutive AFC South title.

Three of the Texans' last four games are within the division with their trip to Indianapolis followed by games against the Jaguars and Bengals before the regular-season finale at Tennessee.

''We know the type of team that we have in this locker room,'' receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. ''We know our goals are still in front of us and we haven't accomplished our goals, so we have to put these three losses behind us and move forward.''

Though the offense stalled at times on Sunday in a game where snow was falling throughout, Osweiler looked better than he did the previous week.

He threw two touchdown passes and did not have a turnover after throwing three interceptions in a loss to San Diego.

His performance on Sunday gave him 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season, his first in Houston after joining the Texans from Denver in the offseason.

The Texans rank 28th in total offense in large part because of a passing game that is the third-worst in the NFL by averaging just 194.9 yards a game.

''I feel like we're very close to exploding as an offense and I've been saying that all season long,'' Osweiler said.

''But it's true we are three, four plays away from changing multiple football games. Because of that, I don't think we can get discouraged. You can't. There's no time to get discouraged.''

An encouraging development from Sunday's game was Osweiler connecting with Hopkins for a touchdown pass.

Many of Osweiler's interceptions this season have come when he's tried to force the ball to his star receiver despite him facing near-constant double teams. It was his first touchdown reception since Oct. 9.

Hopkins was asked why the offense has struggled this season.

''I can't pinpoint it,'' he said. ''I am just out there doing my job and trying to help this team however I can.''

Of course the offense wasn't the only problem on Sunday. Houston's pass rush took a hit with 2014 top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney missing his first game this season because of a wrist injury.

It's unclear if he'll be able to return this week after taking a beating in his first year playing defensive end with J.J. Watt out for the season after back surgery.

The secondary also had trouble against the Packers when veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph injured his ribs in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Charles James.

James, who normally plays mostly on special teams, fell on the slippery field allowing Jordy Nelson to get past him on a 32-yard touchdown catch that gave Green Bay the lead for good.

Also injured on Sunday was rookie receiver Braxton Miller, who will be day to day this week with a shoulder injury and running back Lamar Miller. O'Brien said Miller is dealing with injuries to four different areas of his body.

He has been on the injury report with shoulder, ankle and rib injuries, but it is unclear what other problem he has.

O'Brien said he spoke to the team on Monday about the importance of everyone, including the coaching staff, stepping up to turn things around.

''Got to do a better job and ... if we don't then we're not going to be where we want to be,'' O'Brien said. ''But if we do we'll have a shot to win these games.''

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