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Mario Williams Injury Hurts Texans in AFC South Race

Last week, it was the best player on offense. This week, the Houston Texans’ best defender went down with an injury.

All-Pro defensive end-turned-linebacker Mario Williams will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. He was tied for the AFC lead in sacks with five on the season but suffered the injury in Sunday’s 25-20 home loss to the Raiders. The bad news for the Texans comes a week after All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson suffered a hamstring injury in their 17-10 win over the Steelers. At least with Johnson, the injury is not considered season-ending.

The loss of Williams hurts a defense that new coordinator Wade Phillips has turned into a top ten unit. After being one of the NFL’s worst defenses a year ago, Houston is better equipped this season to deal with a key injury. However, losing your leading pass rusher is something that is challenging to overcome.

Houston knows the AFC South is wide open this season with Peyton Manning’s dominating presence on the sidelines with the Colts. The Titans will be tough in the trenches all year, but Tennessee looks like the only obstacle to the Texans making their first-ever postseason appearance. Fortunately for Gary Kubiak’s club, the entire division lost on Sunday so no ground was lost. But now he must prepare his team for consecutive road trips to Baltimore and Nashville, and that just became much more difficult without Williams and probably Johnson.

The Texans looked like the clear cut favorite to win the division after the Manning injury in Indianapolis, but now Houston will have to battle until the very last game. They will host the Titans on New Year’s Day in a contest that could very well be for the AFC South crown and a postseason berth.