There's a good case to be made that the Patriots face an easy road to the AFC championship game. In recent weeks the Texans have looked less like the team that gored the league for the better part of the last two years and more like the reliably .500 team they were early in Gary Kubiak's tenure. As the regular season closed, they lost to the Vikings, they lost to the Colts, and they got stomped by the Patriots. They needed overtimes to beat the Jaguars and Lions. And, yes, if Andy Dalton had played just a little bit better, the Texans probably would have spent next Sunday golfing.
But that case cannot possibly sound good when it emerges from Dan Shaughnessy's keyboard. To wit:
The 2012-13 Texans? Pure frauds. The worst 11-1 team in the history of the NFL. These Texans have absolutely zero chance of beating New England here next week. And everybody knows that this is true.
Phillips and head coach Gary Kubiak did what almost everybody does against the Patriots. They choked. The forget what got them to this level. They played on their heels, and let Brady carve them up like a medical school cadaver. No pressure. Total retreat. Total surrender.
The column has low points even lower than those. Shaughnessy calls Marvin Lewis "the Cito Gaston of football," which is at best nonsensical and inapt (Gaston's Jays had extreme highs and lows; Lewis's Bengals are consistently average) but reads worse than that. He also makes a few mistakes with proper nouns—Reliant Stadium, not Reliant Field; Stevan Ridley, not Steven Ridley—that make the column seem unedited.
And yet: It would have been just another bit of predictable hackery if it hadn't been spotted by one of the NFL's celebrated literary types, Arian Foster. Foster evidently read the column, spit out whatever chai-based beverage he was sipping at the moment, and then took a screenshot of Shaughnessy's words and made it his Twitter avatar:
We'd tell Foster that most Patriots fans aren't like this, but, well, they basically are.