The bye week is a time for sober reflection (something which many of us haven’t done or necessarily been in a state to do this season) and a glance towards what the rest of the season might hold. I got the masthead together (some had to be lured out of their panda suits) to talk about all things Texans that we’ve seen so far and what we might see going forward. Here were the questions I asked.
1. What has been the headline or issue you didn't expect going into this season?
2. Two part question: What has been the team’s most impressive win? How about their most disappointing games so far?
3. Which player have you enjoyed watching the most this season and why?
4. Looking forward, what is the match-up or match-ups that you are most looking forward to in the second half of the regular season?
5. Looking back to your pre-season record prediction for the Texans, do you stand by it after eight games? If not, what would you change it to now? How do you think this season will ultimately end? Playoffs? First round victory against the Bengals followed by a crushing defeat to the Patriots? Something else?
1. DeAndre Hopkins. Brock Osweiler has done one thing that none of the myriad other Texans quarterbacks managed: make DeAndre Hopkins look average. Somehow Osweiler has managed to make C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin look like real NFL players, but he has made one of the best receivers in the game almost irrelevant at points. The balls thrown in Hopkins’ direction seem to be worse than most Osweiler throws. There seems to be miscommunication between the two on "option routes," and the "throw it up to Nuk" strategy hasn't worked.
I'm not concerned that Hopkins isn't what he once was. I'm just concerned that Osweiler can't make use of one of the best receivers in the game.
2. If we could somehow form an entire performance of the first half offense against the Titans, the second half defense against the Colts, and the total defensive performance against the Chiefs, that would be the team's best performance. It's hard to nail down what team’s best performance when every win had something wrong with it. Maybe the Chiefs?
Worst is the Patriots. Let's not speak of that.
3. I'm sure I'll awaken the wrath of many if I say Alfred Blue, but I have enjoyed his running this year; he looks a lot better. However, you can't not say A.J. Bouye. With Kevin Johnson out (who was my favourite up until he got injured), Bouye has looked excellent, flying all over the place. He plays with the same intensity as K-Jo and is by and far our best player in the secondary. He's just a pleasure to watch.
4. DeAndre Hopkins v. Vontae Davis—Episode II. It's a great match-up every year, and I hope this next time is no different. Episode I didn't let us down, but I'd prefer a win for Nuk.
5. I actually predicted the team would be 5-3 at the bye, so it's actually no different that what I thought, but it's not been a nice 5-3 like I hoped. I think we win all our remaining divisional games and end up at 9-7 rather than the 10 wins I originally predicted. Maybe we'll scrape out a victory against the Chargers or something. That does of course mean we'll be in the playoffs with six divisional wins, but I can't see us winning a playoff game. Not sure who it will be against, but if fate has anything to do with it, it will be the Bengals.
1. Brock Osweiler. Last year he was average in Denver and had numbers aligned with Teddy Bridgewater and Brian Hoyer. I thought in a better situation, with a better offensive line and skill players, along with him getting the first starts out of the way, Osweiler would at least be that. But noooooooo. Instead, Osweiler has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league and the worst if you like DYAR and DVOA.
2. Kansas City was the most impressive, I guess. Brock hit some deep passes and the offense played well for a spurt. But the Chiefs did a lot to lose that game and they had bad luck. Kansas City didn't run the usual quick passing offense that had so much success in the past. Andy Reid continued to kick field goals instead of going for it on fourth down because he has yet to learn the other team gets a chance to score, too. And the Texans recovered every fumble that game. It was impressive in the fact that Houston beat a team that obliterated them the year before, but the on-field performance wasn't.
The most disappointing games were all of the Texans’ losses. In each one of these games, they were flat, Osweiler threw fumbles farther than his average passing attempt, they were completely shut down on offense, and they never had a chance. These were all games against some of the best teams in the league. These were the games we thought Houston should be able to win this year now that they had a quarterback. They were pantsed. Everyone pointed a finger at them and laughed.
3. Without J.J. Watt, there was an open field for this conversation. The answer was Kevin Johnson until he broke his foot again. He was showing that he is a legitimate #1 cornerback. But now that he's hurt, the answer is Jadeveon Clowney, who has been good but not great this year. He's been excellent at stopping runs from the backside of plays, but that is about it. You can still run at Clowney and he hasn't done much as a pass rusher this year. He's such an incredible athlete that even though he isn't a top ten defensive end, he still has so many flashes that leave my jaw dropped.
4.) The Texans playing the Titans in Nashville. This division is far from locked up. The Texans have the better record, but the Titans are playing better than Houston is. That game is going to have playoff implications, which is exactly what I want. I don't want this team to just be able to walk in to the playoffs. I want them to actually have to win some games, and that is going to be the most important one.
5.) I had the Texans at 10-6, winning the division, and losing in the first round of the playoffs. I will stand by that. I think it takes nine to win this division. They should be able to get there, but they still have four games where they will be the worse team—GB, CIN, OAK, and SD. The rest of the way won't be easy. Again, what has surprised me is how bad they have played at times. I didn't expect them to be this bad.
The season ends with them getting absolutely, 100% Kansas City skull-bashed in the first round of the playoffs with the potential of Tennessee stealing the division from them.
1. I hadn't expected the injury bug to grab hold of our team and hold on for dear life. At the beginning of the season, I expected Watt to struggle and be brought along slowly, but I didn't expect to lose Derek Newton or Kevin Johnson. I legit fear for our offensive line (well, our quarterback and running backs) with Newton gone. I also legit fear for our secondary, because J-Jo, K-Jax and K-Jo were a great trio and now one of them's down for the year.
2. The most impressive game for me was the Colts. Yeah, they sh@t the bed early, but to be able to engineer that comeback at the end makes me wonder why we can't just do that all game.
The least impressive was the Vikings. I expected the Patriots to be a tough game (didn't expect that KITTEN-whipping, but did expect a tough game). While Mike Zimmer doesn't get enough credit, I didn't expect Sam Bradford to be able to take advantage of Crennel's D like that.
3. I'm going to have to go with Merc. He's been a solid LB for us since turning that corner, and even though he's usually overlooked or said to just take advantage of teams ignoring him, he gets the job done. He's not the flashiest, but I don't need flash. I need hits, hurries, pressures, and stops.
4. The Colts at their place. Living in DFW, people here always ask me about the "rivalry" between the Texans and the Cowboys and, as far as I'm concerned, there isn't one, really. They play in the NFC East and we play in the AFC South. Our rivals are the Colts, Titans, and Jaguars. The Colts had the run of the division for so long that going into the Oil Can and coming out with a victory has to be one the best feelings a Texans fan experiences. That's always a game that I look forward to (when we're playing well, and I dread it when we're not).
5. If we can continue to win our home games, I can see this team at 11-5 or 10-6. I want to believe we can win the division, and I want to believe that we can win a home game. I don't think the Houston Superb Owl will have the Texans in it, sadly.
1. Even the most skeptical of us could not have foreseen how wretched Brock Osweiler has been in 2016. That being said, my take on 2016 since before the season started was that the defense would keep us in games enough to allow Osweiler to "learn on the job" while not necessarily losing games. I also thought the offense would get better in the second half of the year (kind of an obvious take, I know). So far, this has all pretty much come to pass. We'll see about the second half.
2. Impressive - Nothing has been impressive, only stretches have been impressive. I was impressed by how Brock managed to put 58 minutes of straight up garbage behind him and rally the team to win against Indy, and I was impressed with the way Houston VERY unexpectedly ran the clock out against Detroit when everyone knew they were going to run the ball.
Disappointment - So much. Obviously the Patriots game was more of a total disaster than a disappointment. I'll go with the Monday night loss to Denver because I wanted them to surprise me. That game played out EXACTLY the way I thought it would, and that was very disappointing.
3. J.D. Clowney. Rooting for him hard because of all the criticism he's received, although my fear is he will hit his peak right when it's time for a new contract, and we will have another Mario situation on our hands (which really, unless Clowney just becomes AMAZING, I don't have a problem letting him walk because you know the price is going to be ridiculous).
4. I want to see at least one quality road win, so put me down for the game in Green Bay. Also, my favorite game of every season is typically when we visit the Titans, because I love nothing more than smashing them in front of their fans. This year, it may actually be an important game with the division title in the balance.
5. I've referred to this several times, but literally (like, really, literally) nothing has changed for me. Pre or post- J.J. Watt, my prediction is the same. The Texans are a team that can play well enough to win the division and might even get a good draw in the first round at home against a weak playoff team but will get gutter-stomped the first time they play a legitimately good team.
1. Brock Osweiler. I was one of the few who didn't like this signing heading into the season, often calling him a taller version of Brian Hoyer or TEAMKEENUM, but yeesh, has he been awful. I thought first year in this system and being about the 22nd best QB in the NFL would be a good start. I didn't see Osweiler being in the rankings with #HoboQB, though. Once again, that's on Bill O'Brien.
2. The Colts game was the most impressive, but we also had to live with ugly as hell play for the first three plus quarters. The Patriots game was the most disappointing, and it completely exposed O'Brien as a fraud in the NFL ranks.
After all, if a couple tweens doing a podcast from their respective parent's basements could tell you exactly how Bill Belichick would slow down the Texans' pass game, how was the team so woefully unprepared?
3. Benardrick McKinney, and it's not close. In fact, I'm surprised he's been able to play this well with me all up in his jock and all.
4. The return game from the bye against the Glitter Kitties. How do we adjust - if at all! - in the passing game? Tom Savage time? Trade for Brian Hoyer?
5. Hit the instant replay button on the 2015 season. We finish 9-7 and then get curb-stomped in the playoffs. We've secretly replaced Brian Hoyer with Brock Osweiler! Let's see if anybody notices.
1. Brock Osweiler. After his signing, and explaining it to strangers who felt pity for me, I consoled myself with one statement which I repeated like a mantra: "At least he's not Brian Hoyer." Because I wanted Brock Osweiler to be the answer, if for no other reason than to shut every Elway-slobbering La Canfora up. After half a season, I was right, he's not Brian Hoyer. Brian Hoyer could at least get the ball to DeAndre Hopkins. Brian Hoyer didn't come to the team with David Carr-esque skittishness behind the line. Brian Hoyer didn't take up two years and $36 million to be as terrible as Brock Osweiler has been. One more...Brian Hoyer has never, to my knowledge, thrown a pickfumble. Osweiler has been bad, and it's getting to the point where I'm not entirely convinced that the Texans can win the AFC South despite him.
2. Most Impressive: I honestly can't say any game the Texans have played has been that impressive, at least not from start to finish. The only games where the Texans appeared to have any kind of competence is the first half of the BESFs game and the fourth quarter/OT of the Colts game. So in that case, I will say the game against the BESFs because it was the only time this entire season I felt like the Texans’ offense has really clicked at all, where scoring was such a breeze (again, only in the first half) that I felt like the team might be okay after all.
Most Disappointing: The most disappointing game was the Patriots game, and it's not even close. This was the first time I felt like the Texans had a shot against the Pats since the end of the 2009-10 season. They were playing against a no-name quarterback, a busted-up defense and man, oh, man did they crap the bed. That's all I'm going to say about that game before I start getting really sad.
3. Jadeveon Clowney. I say that partly because he's just fun to watch go to work and partly because I'm watching to see when he finally turns the corner from being a run stopper to the elite level pass rusher we all expect he's capable of becoming.
4. I'm torn between seeing what kind of adjustments (insert spiteful laugh here) the team makes after the bye against Jacksonville and the Colts game because we might actually end up with a two-game winning streak in Indy! It's the simple things in life, really.
5. I said before the season started that I saw in a dream that the Texans were going to the Super Bowl and would finish 10-6. To say that I would make a U-turn on that prediction now would be an understatement. Based on what I've seen so far, and the schedule left to go, I'm going to take the pessimist's view and say the Texans finish the season 8-8 and miss the playoffs. Because to get to the playoffs, the Texans have to win the division. I think to win the division, they'll have to run the table and I expect some kind of weird nonsense that will cost the Texans one AFC South game and completely blow their chances at yet another one and out and a high draft pick.
1. Headline, and weekly narrative: "Texans blew $72 million on a backup 'bust' at QB." I thought we'd see some early struggles for the offense overall, but this is much more disappointing than I expected by mid-season.
2. "Most Impressive" was against KC. "Most disappointing" was against the Patriots and their rookie third-string QB.
3. A.J. Bouye, because he rose to the occasion at the perfect time when Kareem proved to be terrible outside (but great in the slot), Johnathan Joseph is showing his age, and Kevin Johnson was placed on I/R.
4. The Raiders, because they are the next best benchmark to test the Texans.
5. If I remember correctly, I predicted 10-6. I would pull that back to 9-7 with the loss of J.J. Watt and the slower-than-expected evolution of Brock and the offense. I expect the Texans to win the AFC South and then lose a close contest in the Wild Card game. It will be a marginal improvement from getting blown out like they did last year against KC.
This season has clearly reset expectations to basically giving live-game experience to a young team that obviously needs a year together to develop, and to fuel that familiar phrase: "Waiting for next year since 2002."
1. It’s probably got to be the fact that the offense, which made what we hoped were considerable upgrades to running back, receiver and quarterback positions yet somehow managed to maintain its dreadful and disappointing play from last season despite the fact the offense has vastly different personnel and remains strangely impotent.
2. Oh, that Bears game. How I long for that week afterwards where we fawned over Will Fuller and fanned ourselves furiously over the fact that this might be some Cardinals-esque vertical passing offense that revolved around Brock’s impeccable deep accuracy. That was a fun game. So much promise. Unlike that Patriots game. That Patriots game was sobering for all of the wrong reasons. It was like someone coming up to you as a kid and telling you that you’ll never live up to all that potential.
3. Benadrick McKinney has been pretty sweet. Romeo Crennel has done wonders with him this season, and McKinney’s blitzing ability has been showcased to the max. That, plus great work flowing from sideline to sideline and sifting through the blocking trash to get to the ball carrier has been pretty neat to watch
4. The two Jaguars games. At least those two weeks I can be happy that we won. Great, I’ve jinxed it now.
5. I stand by my pre-season prediction. As for what lies beyond and how it will all end, barring some kind of horrific accident, this team makes the playoffs. Barring some kind of miracle, they won’t make it past the wild card round. I know this sounds doom and gloom, but HEY at least we make the playoffs! We’ll also always have that Bears game. Man, that was a great game.
1. Losing J.J. Watt. For some dumb reason, I actually was beginning to believe the hype about him and Clark Kent never being in the same place at the same time. There was some serious anxiety over him coming back so soon, but I just chalked it up to another moment of super human-ness we've all come to expect from the greatest player in the NFL and possibly the greatest defensive player in the history of forever.
2. Kansas City was the most impressive win. They showed guts, mojo and a will to win that really seemed to be everywhere in the preseason.
Denver was the most disappointing loss on several levels. For some odd reason, I actually get offended when anyone insinuates that Von Miller is anywhere near as awesome as J.J. Watt - not having Watt there to show the Denver fans what a real Greatest Player on Earth looks like took a lot of wind out of the sails for me. And, on another level, I was really hoping Brock would finally get going, in front of a familiar crowd in a familiar stadium, and let it rip...
3. It's a tie between Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney. While so many other defenders have stepped up, for some reason watching these two decimate opposing offensive linemen just fires me up.
4. Whatever game it is where things finally click for Brock. Despite what many think, I've listened to too many veteran quarterbacks, ex-coaches and even Charley Casserly say that sooner or later, it's going to click and Brock will finally have a complete game. Despite his horrible play so far, if John Elway, Gary Kubiak, Peyton Manning, Bill O'Brien, Jon Gruden, and a host of others think this kid has what it takes, he must have what it takes. Not sure when that click game is going to happen, but I can't wait until it does.
5. I think I predicted 12-4 or 11-5, but now 10-6 seems more likely. The Texans will still claim the division, play a wild card game and either A) lose in heart-breaking fashion or B) win if Brock's "click" game comes far enough in advance and the other wild card team plays badly on the road. Should “B” happen, the Texans will then lose in the divisional round, as the weight of injuries finally takes its toll.
1. Because the question was phrased as "going into this season," I have to go with J.J. Watt being lost for the year. I didn't expect him to play Week One against the Bears, certainly not as much as he did. He looked close to the J.J. Watt of old against the Chiefs, though, so I got suckered in to thinking that he was rounding into form. Then the Patriots debacle happened, and it was made exponentially worse by the announcement that J.J. would be undergoing another surgery and would miss the remainder of the season. I did not see things unfolding like that.
2. Most impressive: The win over the Chiefs. The Texans exorcised a demon and looked every bit like a well balanced team that might have to be reckoned with in January.
Most disappointing: I'd narrowly go with the no-show to the Vikings over the failure in Foxborough. With the Patriots, you can reasonably point to the Charles James and Tyler Ervin fumbles deep in Houston's territory and think things wouldn't have been nearly as embarrassing if not for those miscues. Against the Vikings, it was virtually four quarters of uninterrupted futility in all phases.
3. Jadeveon Clowney. He still hasn't put it all together and it stands to reason he'd be even more productive if opposing teams had to deal with J.J. Watt on the other side, but he's making an impact. Oh, and Clowney has played in every game so far. Given his injury history, that's worth mentioning.
4. I want to see whether this team can put together a good game on the road against an above-average opponent. Looking at the schedule right now, the Raiders and Packers contests fit that bill. The Texans' defense will have their work cut out for them with each of those teams, and the offense will have to do much more than they've done up to this point away from NRG Stadium.
5. I said 10-6, and I'll stand by it. Although I expect the offense to improve in the second half, I'd still wager the season ends with the Texans losing the wild card game they host at home. Bold prediction: It won't be by a score of 30-0, and Brock Osweiler will not turn the ball over five times like Brian Hoyer did.
There you have it, folks. What do you think of the masthead’s assessment of the season so far and what they think going forward? Don’t let them have all the fun! Let us know what you’ve thought of the season so far and going forward in the comments below.