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Texans enter bye as AFC's best team

Texans enter bye as AFC's best team

HOUSTON (AP) The Texans needed a win over Baltimore to enter their bye with the AFC's best record.

The lopsided victory gave them that, and clearly separated them from the second-place Ravens and the rest of the conference.

Still, the Texans (6-1) know they can't be too impressed with what they've accomplished so far.

``You can't look at the big picture because when you get too far ahead of yourself, that's when bad things happen,'' Andre Johnson said.

But with a dominant defense allowing the second fewest points in the AFC coupled with the second-highest scoring offense in the conference, they've become the team to beat in the AFC.

Aside from Houston and Baltimore, New England (4-3) is the only AFC team with more than three wins. Houston will get a shot at the Patriots on Dec. 10.

The Texans are well on their way to winning a second-straight AFC South title with a three-game lead over second-place Indianapolis (3-3).

Houston's only loss this season was to the NFC's Green Bay Packers. Their average margin of victory in their six wins, all over AFC teams, is more than 17.6 points this season.

With a goal of reaching the Super Bowl a season after making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Texans are well aware of the importance of AFC supremacy.

``That's what you work for,'' defensive end J.J. Watt said. ``That's why we put in all the time and the effort. I think it's a testament to the way we attack each week. We have the mentality of focus and preparation. Nobody ever gets complacent. Nobody ever feels safe. Nobody ever feels that we're where we want to be at yet. Everybody knows what the main goal is and we're not there yet, so we're going to work to get there.''

The outstanding play of Watt, who is in his second season, has been a big part of Houston's defensive success. He leads the NFL in sacks with 9 1/2 and he's tied for second in the league in passes defended with 10. The Texans are second in the AFC in yards allowed (283), interceptions (9) and sacks (21).

There was some concern a week ago after Houston lost 42-24 to the Packers in its first game without linebacker Brian Cushing, who is out for the season with a knee injury. But the defense bounced back on Sunday when the unit held Baltimore to a season-low 176 yards.

``It was right after a tough loss, a bad loss,'' linebacker Brooks Reed said. ``So to have a game like that really boosted our confidence back up again, kind of reassured us as players and the coaches that we do have something special.''

Of course, Houston's offense has certainly held its own to complement the defensive success. Arian Foster leads the NFL with 659 yards rushing and Owen Daniels is third in yards receiving for a tight end with 416. Quarterback Matt Schaub has rebounded from a broken foot that kept him out of Houston's postseason run last year to throw for 1,650 yards and 10 touchdowns. But more important than his statistics has been the way he's led the Texans this season.

``He's managed the game,'' offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. ``He gets our guys going. I think he's stepped up leadership wise. I think he's done a tremendous job.''

The Texans return from their bye next week to host Buffalo. Coach Gary Kubiak said it's too early to talk about being atop the AFC, and insists they're only focused on the Bills. He is happy with the progress of his team so far, and looking forward to what it can do the rest of the season.

``The thing that I'm most excited about our team is that I don't think we've touched the surface of what we can be up front. I think we can be much better,'' he said. ``I think receiver we're only going to get better. I see our team getting a lot better throughout the course of the season so we're going to stay away from that one. We're just going to try to play every week and find a way to win every week and see what happens here down the road.''

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Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

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USA Today Sports

Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

On Wednesday, February 14, a horrific school shooting claimed the lives of 17 innocent people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 

The tragic event impacted people far and wide, and hit especially close to home for Ravens running back Alex Collins.

The former Arkansas star was born in Plantation, Fla., a suburb of Fort Lauderdale and went to high school just 15 miles south of Douglas High School. 

In the offseason, Collins took Irish dancing lessons to improve his footwork, and following the act of terror, the Ravens' tailback learned that one of his dance partners had been killed in the mass shooting.

17-year-old Cara Loughran attended The Drake school of Irish Dance with Collins in addition to two other Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and was fatally shot by the gunman on Wednesday afternoon. 

Collins took to his Twitter account to issue this heartfelt message.

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“The school shooting yesterday hit home,” Collins wrote.

“We received confirmation a few hours ago we lost one of the girls, Cara Loughran. Two other girls saw and experienced unspeakable tragedy. My heart goes out to these girls, all their families and their teacher Chrissy.”

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Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

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USA Today Sports

Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears will launch the NFL's 99th season by playing in the annual Hall of Fame game on Aug. 2.

The Ravens' first appearance in the Hall of Fame game, which launches the league's 2018 Enshrinement Week. Former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis is among the inductees, along with former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Lewis, who played 17 seasons with the Ravens, and Urlacher, who played all of his 13 seasons with Chicago, both were elected on the first ballot.

Lewis joins Jonathan Ogden as the only Ravens in the Hall of Fame. Both were selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1996 draft.

The other members of the Class of 2018 include Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. All will be inducted on Saturday, Aug. 4.

This will be the record-tying fifth time that the Bears will play in the Hall of Fame game. They won the previous four, most recently 27-24 over Miami in 2005.

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