Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
"Let the record state that we like our friends from the Southwest and we like the Houston Texans ... But they have zero chance to beat the Patriots."
That's an excerpt from a column that appeared in Friday morning's edition of the Boston Globe. The story, written by Dan Shaughnessy (who famously called the 2004 Red Sox "frauds" before they went on to win the World Series), was titled "No offense, but the Texans simply can't win."
This comes on the heels of a Shaughnessy column earlier in the week that described the Texans as "terrible" while asking, "Could this get any easier?"
You can see where Shaughnessy is coming from. We all saw the Patriots steamroll Houston last month and that was without all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is healthy now.
The Patriots are 10-2 in the Bill Belichick Era in home playoff games. The Texans have never advanced past the second round.
Everything seems to be pointing in New England's favor, but none of that matters to Arian Foster. In fact, he likes it better this way.
This isn't the first time Foster has faced doubters. Following an up-and-down career at the University of Tennessee, Foster went undrafted at the 2009 NFL draft. Scouts thought Foster fumbled too often and wasn't fast enough to play at the next level (he ran a disappointing 4.71 in the 40-yard dash at Tennessee's pro day).
After starting the 2009 season on Houston's practice squad, Foster finally carved out a spot for himself as a backup to starting running back Steve Slaton. By the end of the season, he had leapfrogged Slaton, Ryan Moats and Chris Brown to become the starter.
Foster only received 54 carries in his first year, so nobody was sure what to think of him heading into the 2010 season.
The uncertainty didn't last long. Foster opened 2010 with a bang, scrambling for a career-best 231 yards on 33 touches in a Week 1 victory over the Colts. Foster racked up seven more 100-yard games that season en route to a league leading 1,616 yards on 327 carries. He also led the NFL with 16 rushing touchdowns.
2010 was just the beginning. Since then, Foster has added two more Pro Bowl invites to his resume and has now produced 4,264 yards rushing in his last three seasons. Only the Vikings' Adrian Peterson has collected more yards over that span (4,365). And even Peterson hasn't been able to keep up with Foster's torrid touchdown pace (41 rushing touchdowns for Foster since 2010 compared to only 36 for Peterson).
It didn't seem possible four years ago, but now Foster is on the verge of becoming one of the all-time greats. Since 2002, only four running backs besides Foster have reached 1,200 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in three straight seasons (Shaun Alexander, Rudi Johnson, Peterson and LaDanian Tomlinson).
For fantasy purposes, Foster's ceiling might even be a little bit higher than Peterson's because he's more of a dual threat. Foster already has two 600-yard receiving seasons under his belt. Peterson has never had more than 500 yards receiving in a single season.
The Texans are nine and a half point underdogs on Sunday, but I think it's the Patriots who should be looking out. Shaughnessy may have woken a sleeping giant with his criticism earlier in the week.
Not long after Shaughnessy's comments surfaced, Foster adopted a screen shot of the article as his new Twitter avatar, while telling his followers "You think an article can get under my skin?"
Many critics of the Texans suggest that quarterback Matt Schaub isn't ready to handle a playoff atmosphere. That may be true, but I don't think Schaub will be the difference on Sunday.
The Texans have overcome plenty of lackluster outings from Schaub before. This season, they were 5-3 when Schaub threw an interception and 2-1 when he threw for less than 200 yards.
On the other hand, Houston was just 1-3 when Foster rushed for fewer than 50 yards. One of those losses came in Week 14 at New England (15 carries for 46 yards).
The last thing Foster and the Texans needed was more bulletin board material. And that's exactly what Shaughnessy gave them.