I want to first breakdown the Houston Texans team, and identify some holes first. Defensively, Jonathan Joseph and Danieal Manning improve our secondary drastically. What was an atrocious pass defense last year will be improved, but not more than a top 20 defense. Mario Williams moving to OLB will improve a pass rush that was so-so last year. While they ranked 16th overall in the pass rush, it was clear that without Williams, the defensive line wasn't more than mediocre. Standing Williams up gives him more opportunities and overall better stats. JJ Watt is a good, not great, prospect at end. He'll be able to hold his own, but will struggle in filling Mario's shoes. There are still several holes defensively. Glover Quinn moving to safety is tricky, but could payoff. The number 2 CB position is probably the Texans biggest hole on the team, with Kareem Jackson likely filling the hole. Jason Allen and Brandon Harris will likely share done time there as well, or in other passing situations.
There have already been quite a few posts of season predictions this year for the Houston Texans. Rightfully so, the organization made a splash in free agency frenzy signing Jonathan Joseph and Danieal Manning. Bringing in a proven defensive coordinator such as Wade Phillips also has optimism at an all-time high for the team. This is my guide to realistic expectations for the Texans, as well as a weekly breakdown of their games.
Rick Dennison comes off his first year as offensive coordinator after having success in the run game with Arian Foster. I look for Foster to regress some this year. While losing Vonta Leach can potentially be problematic, I still haven't bought into Arian Foster as a star running back in the NFL. Matt Schaub has shown enormous success in the passing game. However, injuries were a big concern of his early in his Texans career. Should he go down, the Texans must rely on backup Matt Leinart to lead the team. Duane Brown and Eric Winston lead our offensive line, but I still have some concerns. They are aging and there's no real depth on the line. I think our wide receiving core is our biggest hole offensively. Kevin Walter has never truly produced the numbers of a number 2 WR. He's also never really taken pressure off Andre Johnson on a consistent basis. Jacoby Jones could be a star WR, if he can produce consistent numbers and put together a full season. Bringing in or developing a number 2 WR would go a long way in taking this offense to an elite level.
Week 1 - Vs. Indianapolis Colts. With Peyton Manning coming off of neck surgery and being placed on the PUP list for preseason, it's unclear when or if he'll be ready for the start of the season. The team made a few moves to protect Manning, something it failed to do last year. Should Manning be healthy and start the game, I having the texans losing.
Week 2 - At Miami Dolphins. In a suprise move, the Dolphins brought back Head Coach Tony Sparano. The team also signed free agent Reggie Bush, which should take pressure off of struggling QB Chad Henne. While Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush are two big weapons for Miami, I'm still not sold on their ability to win during the season. I have the Texans winning this game, but just barely. If the game were later in the season, giving our defense more time to gel, I would consider this a blowout win for us.
Week 3 - At New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees took a few steps backwards last year, although the team still made the playoffs. Mark Ingram is a step up from Reggie Bush in my opinion, although I don't believe Reggie Bush has ever been used properly in the NFL. I look for Drew Brees to find weaknesses in our defense, especially at the CB2. I have the Saints winning this game.
Week 4 - Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Houston Texans continue a tough start of the season against the Steelers. While they are aging, I still believe in the Steelers. They are tough, hard nosed football team that will benefit from any mistakes we may have. I think we struggle here in a low scoring game.
Week 5 - Vs. Oakland Raiders. Last year was a close game with the Raiders, who were much improved. Losing Nnamdi Asomugha will hurt them though. I think Jason Campbell does better in his second year at the helm of the Raiders offense, but I still think the Texans can win this game.
Week 5 - At Baltimore Ravens. We face a tough defense here in the Ravens. I also believe this is the year Joe Flacco steps up and becomes a true leader of the team. Look for some hard hits on Arian Foster from the hands of a tough linebacking core lead by Ray Lewis. I think we lose at Baltimore.
Week 6 - At Tennessee Titans. Losing Jeff Fisher is a big downgrade for the Titans, and many believe this coaching core will struggle. Bringing in Matthew Hasselbeck and rookie Jake Locker will be an upgrade from last year, but I only predict 6 wins from the Titans, and this isn't one of them.
Week 7 - Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars have made some solid upgrades this offseason, especially defensively. By week 7, I'm predicting better play from David Garrard, or for Blaine Gabbert to step in seamlessly. Maurice Jones-Drew should have a better year than last too.
Week 8 - Vs. Cleveland Browns. I think Colt McCoy will be a great QB for the Browns in time, but I'm not sure if it's this year. I have them struggling offensively in the passing game, but still being mediocre with a 7-9 record. I think the Texans can win this game, but I think just as easily they can lose it too.
Week 9 - At Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I think Josh Freeman can step up and be a tremendous QB for the Bucs, and I think that starts this year. By this point, look for Freeman to expose some of our defensive holes and keep series alive.
Week 10 - BYE
Week 11 - At Jacksonville Jaguars. I don't think we get swept by the Jags this year, but I do predict them to be much improved, just like us. However they could struggle, and Del Rio could be on his way out of Jacksonville. NOTE - I don't believe in Gary Kubiak leading his team after a bye week, so this could be a swing game.
Week 12 - Vs. Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan has never been great away from the Atlanta, but I think that changes this year. The Falcons give Ryan another threat this year, giving up quite a bit and drafting Julio Jones. Look for Jones to deliver all year as the AP offensive rookie of the year.
Week 13 - At Cincinatti Bengals. With Carson Palmer apparently retiring from the NFL, look for this team to struggle in transferring to probable QB rookie Andy Dalton. Maybe as little as 4 to 6 wins for the Bengals this year, although they still have offensive weapons. Could go either way, but easy to predict a texans win here.
Week 14 - Vs. Carolina Panthers. In what seems to be Cam Newton's job to lose, look for new Head Coach Ron Rivera to ease Newton into the NFL, limiting his throws. Healthy RB's will be Newton's biggest asset all year. I don't see them struggling as bad as last year, but only up to 6 wins.
Week 15 - At Indianapolis Colts. Look for Manning to be healthy here, and having a decent seasons from his standards. I think the Colts win here, punching their AFC South division title.
Week 16 - Vs. Tennessee Titans. I think by this point, the torch is passed to Jake Locker. I believe in Locker being the most NFL ready quarterback of the 2011 draft, and having Chris Johnson in the backfield will certainly help that.
Overall record is 7-9
Third in our division behind Indisnapolis and Jacksonville.