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ESPN & PFF: The Houston Texans Are Eight Players Away From Super Bowl Contention

How close are the Houston Texans to Super Bowl contention? Not as close as we'd like according to this joint venture by ESPN and Pro Football Focus.

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Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Football Focus, love it or hate it, has analyzed the rosters of each NFL team and determined how close they might be to contending in a future Super Bowl. Here's their basic criteria:

To be considered a Super Bowl contender, 40 percent of the players who took part in at least 250 snaps (varies by team) have to be rated as good or elite. Here's how Pro Football Focus evaluated each of the Texans' 31 qualifying players.*

Tied with the Chiefs, Jets, and Bengals, the Texans are eight (8) players away from contending for a Super Bowl. Specifically, eight players who PFF deems "Elite" or "Good." According to PFF's rating metric (explained here) the Texans had five such players this season. Check them out below.

PFF Texans ranking

No surprises at all in the first two columns. J.J. Watt is not human and is so good he deserves his own category. It looks like Arian Foster, Johnathan Joseph and Derek Newton just missed the cut between Good and Average, but all three were definite positives throughout most of the season.

Looking through the Average list, it's a little stunning to see so many street free agents contributing. Players like Darryl Morris and A.J. Bouye played important roles in place of the bevy of failed cornerbacks the Texans have drafted recently. Mike Mohamed was often on the field more than Brian Cushing, he of the six-year, $52 million contract.

Tania Ganguli chimed in on Cushing and why there's reason to hope:

The Texans played him on just 35 percent of third- and fourth-down plays in 2014, compared to 85 percent from 2009 through Week 5 2012, when Cushing went down with an ACL injury. Now, for the first time since after the 2011 season, Cushing will go into an offseason without a major surgery from which to recover. "It's different, but it's a good thing," he said. "I wasn't able to really train and prepare the way I want to [coming in to 2014], so having this time and being able to prepare and recover is going to be very important."

Have a look-see at the rest of Ganguli's analysis here (after scrolling down and clicking on the Texans). You'll also notice that the Dallas Cowboys, with their offensive line stacked with first-rounders, are zero (0) players away from contention. My, how things change so quickly in the NFL.

Leave your thoughts down below, dear readers.