Texans become twelfth team to beat a significantly better team in 2021

On Sunday, the previously 3-11 Texans somehow beat the previously 8-6 Chargers, 41-29. The inability of the Chargers to take down an inferior foe resulted in the twelfth time in 16 weeks that a team has beaten an opponent with at least four more victories.

Twelve such outcomes result in a tie for the fifth-most through Week 16 in league history. Which of course goes back no farther than 1978, when the NFL season expanded from fourteen to sixteen weeks.

Making it more impressive this time around is that most of the teams are packed tightly together. Without going back through all games and counting the number of opportunities that a team had to beat a team with at least four more wins (that would require time and effort and I’m lazy), it’s not implausible to think that there have been fewer chances for bad teams to beat good teams.

Still, keep that dynamic in mind as the final two weeks of the regular season approach. Many assume that the Bills, for example, will trounce the Falcons and the Jets at home to nail down the AFC East crown. The Bills likely will, but the one thing we’ve learned about the NFL in 2021 is that there is no sure thing.