The Houston Texans appeared to be trending upward early in the 2017 season. Deshaun Watson started to emerge as the team’s quarterback of the future. But when Watson suffered a season-ending injury in practice, everything fell apart. The Texans ended up losing nine of their last 10 games to finish the season a disappointing 4-12.
However, the team decided to keep head coach Bill O’Brien, giving him a four-year extension. With Watson on the road to recovery, O’Brien and the Texans will get a bit of a do-over in 2018. If healthy, the Texans feel as if they’re just as capable as any team out there of reaching the playoffs and making a push for the Super Bowl.
The Texans are far from Super Bowl favorites at +2350. However, those odds are much better than expected for a team that was 4-12 a year ago. If Watson is healthy, Houston could make an interesting sleeper pick for the Super Bowl. The Texans are also projected to win 8.5 games in 2018. That’s a big leap after winning just four games a year ago. But keep in mind that O’Brien won nine games in each of his first three seasons in Houston, so a healthy Texans team could be capable of topping that projection.
Health-wise, Watson appears ready for the upcoming season, which is obviously vital for Houston’s success. When he was healthy a year ago, the Texans averaged nearly 35 points per game with Watson at quarterback. That’s a small-sample-size, but it does illustrate the kind of difference-maker he’s capable of being in the NFL.
It’s also worth noting that Watson has an outstanding wide receiver tandem in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Hopkins has become one of the best receivers in the league while Fuller could due for a breakout campaign after missing some time due to injury last year. If all three can stay healthy this year, opposing defenses should beware. The Texans also have some intriguing depth at wide receiver with Bruce Ellington, Sammie Coates, and Braxton Miller.
However, there are questions about the Houston offense, most notably on the offensive line. This unit was dreadful last season and will have four new starters this season. Watson’s mobility can help offset some of the problems, but there are serious questions about how good the Houston offensive line will be this year. The Texans are also lacking a game-changer at the running back spot. Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman are capable backs but won’t create too many big plays, meaning Watson could be the team’s most dangerous runner.
On defense, the Texans will have the benefit of several players who missed all or most of last year due to injury, most notably J.J. Watt. Whether Watt can still be an MVP-caliber player remains to be seen. But the Texans would love to see him stay healthy to anchor the defensive line and provide some leadership to the defense.
Meanwhile, the Texans are loaded at linebacker with Benardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham inside and Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus on the outside. If Clowney and Mercilus can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, it’ll help take some of the pressure off of a secondary that struggled a year ago. Houston also added safety Tyrann Mathieu and slot corner Aaron Colvin to upgrade that troubled secondary. Third-round pick Justin Reid could also be a player to watch as a potential contributor at safety.
There are definitely some weaknesses on Houston’s roster. However, they have a mobile quarterback and dynamic receivers who can help cover up some short-comings on offense. The Texans also have the types of pass rushers who can make up for some deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball. If nothing else, those strengths make them an intriguing team that should be in the mix for a playoff spot.
|Sep 9||@ New England Patriots||1:00 PM|
|Sep 16||@ Tennessee Titans||1:00 PM|
|Sep 23||New York Giants||1:00 PM|
|Sep 30||@ Indianapolis Colts||1:00 PM|
|Oct 7||Dallas Cowboys||8:20 PM|
|Oct 14||Buffalo Bills||1:00 PM|
|Oct 21||@ Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00 PM|
|Oct 25||Miami Dolphins||8:20 PM|
|Nov 4||@ Denver Broncos||4:05 PM|
|Nov 18||@ Washington Redskins||1:00 PM|
|Nov 26||Tennessee Titans||8:15 PM|
|Dec 2||Cleveland Browns||1:00 PM|
|Dec 9||Indianapolis Colts||1:00 PM|
|Dec 15||@ New York Jets||4:30 PM|
|Dec 23||@ Philadelphia Eagles||1:00 PM|
|Dec 30||Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00 PM|
With the AFC South sending two teams to the playoffs last year, the Texans have a schedule that includes seven games against playoff teams. However, there are definitely opportunities for Houston to find some wins along the way.
Week 1: at New England – Loss
The Texans nearly marched into New England last September and walked away with a win. But you can bet Bill Belichick will be ready for Watson and company this time around. With Watson needing to shake off some rust, it’s tough to see Houston winning this one.
Week 2: at Tennessee – Win
The Texans hammered the Titans 57-14 in a game Watson started last season. To be fair, Marcus Mariota was hurt in that game. Nevertheless, that was a convincing win for the Texans and this will be too.
Week 3: vs Giants – Loss
The Texans get a little over-confident after beating the Titans on the road. Eli Manning and a revamped Giants offense will get the better of Houston’s defense and win in a shootout.
Week 4: at Colts – Win
The Texans pass rush will find a way to get to Andrew Luck, doing just enough to prevent him from keeping up in a shootout against Watson.
Week 5: vs Cowboys – Loss
This will be a rivalry game on a Sunday night, but one in which the Texans come up short. The Dallas running game will take away Houston’s pass rush and control the clock, leading to a frustrating night for Watson and company.
Week 6: vs Bills – Win
The Bills will prove tougher than anticipated. But Houston’s dynamic passing attack will create some big plays and help the Texans pull away in the 4th quarter for a comfortable win.
Week 7: at Jaguars – Win
The Texans pull off a shocking road win over the Jaguars, as Watson has a big day against a Jacksonville defense that was a little too aggressive. Houston’s depth at wide receiver ends up paying big dividends against the Jacksonville secondary.
Week 8: vs Dolphins – Win
On a Thursday night, the Dolphins are ill-prepared to face Watson following a short week of practice. In fact, this one gets out of hand.
Week 9: at Broncos – Loss
The winning streak comes crashing to a halt at Mile High. Without a consistent running game, Denver’s pass rushers are able to bottle up Watson before he can get loose, as the Texans head to their bye week off a loss.
Week 10: Bye
Week 11: at Redskins – Win
With a week off, the Texans are ready to hit the road and come away with a win. This one is tight to the end, but Watson and Hopkins step up in the 4th quarter to secure the win.
Week 12: vs Titans – Loss
On a Monday night, Mariota and the Titans get revenge for their Week 2 loss to the Texans. This time, it’s Mariota’s turn to have a big game, as he out-runs and out-throws Watson in a memorable shootout.
Week 13: vs Browns – Win
By the time December rolls around, the Browns will be as inept as they are just about every year. The Texans actually get a 100-yard rushing effort from Miller, as they win comfortably.
Week 14: vs Colts – Loss
Once again, the second time is the charm for an AFC South rival. Luck learned his lesson about the Houston pass rush earlier in the season and this time he comes to Houston and picks apart the Texans.
Week 15: at Jets – Win
The Texans luck out by getting the Jets late in the season, as New York will be a mess by this point in the season. Watson proves he has no problem winning in cold weather, delivering a solid performance that gives the Texans a much-needed win.
Week 16: at Eagles – Loss
Watson has another good day, but the Houston defense can’t seem to stop Carson Wentz and company. Right in the thick of the playoff race, the Texans fall to the Eagles away from home.
Week 17: vs Jaguars – Win
With all to play for, the Texans find a way to knock off the Jaguars for a second time this season. The Jacksonville defense, for whatever reason, doesn’t have an answer for Watson, who delivers a huge Week 17 win for the Texans.