With your Houston Texans just days away from kicking off the 2016 NFL regular season against the Chicago Bears, the writing staff of Battle Red Blog took a pause to offer up their thoughts about how hings may unfold for the good guys this year. Take a read, and then share your expectations.
MIKE BULLOCK: 10-6.
While the team is obviously improved over last year, the schedule is harder with more playoff-caliber opponents lined up to face the Texans. I would have put last year’s team at 7-9 against this year’s schedule. But the offense is vastly improved, the defense – while mostly standing pat player-wise – has another year under DC Romeo Crennel, and the special teams are (potentially) finally average instead of subpar. To me, that’s worth three more wins, landing H-Town in the playoffs once more. Hopefully deep in the playoffs.
TEXANS TAKEAWAY: 11-5.
As high as we all are on this revamped Texans offense, there will be growing pains with so much young talent. The offensive line scares me half to death and will be a continuous source of stress this season. Fortunately, the roster is stacked with WR & RB playmakers, so Houston's offense should finally be able to keep up with their defense this year. J.J. Watt & Company will continue to wreak havoc on the rest of the league, especially if Jadeveon Clowney steps up & stays on the field this year.
A tough road schedule and improving AFC South have me hesitant to predict the undefeated road to the Super Bowl that all of Houston is clamoring for, but I have firm belief in an 11-5 season and a deep playoff push.
LUKE BEGGS: 9-7.
It's nigh impossible to say with any kind of certainty how this season will go. Looking over a schedule and pointing at teams and saying, ''Eh, we could probably beat them'' is a dangerous and often weird endeavour, especially as you are trying to apply reasoning to something that is exceptionally unreasonable. That being said, HERE COME THE HOT HOT PICKS!
The offense should be better. It's no longer got the decaying corpse of Nate Washington opposite DeAndre Hopkins. It's not longer reliant on the combined running abilities of Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes. Heck, we might even have a good passing catching TE (Stephen Anderson) on the team for the first time since Owen Daniels left town.
THE DEFENSE. How can we not talk about how good it's looking? A Whitney Mercilus whose finally figured it out, a secondary that's no longer got Rahim Moore in it, and a healty Brian Cushing. That's all before we get to Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt. Now imagine if Christian Covington and Andre Hal continue to improve. Imagine having that uber stacked front 7 with a safety who can actually cover the deep ball. Just the idea of this is making me giddy. How can this possibly go wrong?
I liked that last paragraph. It was hopeful, filled full of promise and joy. That is why I can't with any kind of conviction say that this season will go as well as I've outlined above. We're gonna get shafted somewhere along the road this season. The defense could lose one or two of its starters and still be collectively good, but the offense? It's one injury away from having its running game headlined by Alfred Blue again. There's also the schedule, which I think is probably going to be tougher this year. It's even harder to predict because so many of the teams the Texans play could just bottom out (Broncos, Vikings) or make a big leap (Raiders, Jaguars). This is all before we attempt to convince ourselves that even a Tom Brady-less Pats team isn't a little bit off-putting because there's a Sith lord standing on the sideline calling the plays for them. With all that being said, I'll take a season that ends up with the exact same record as last because that'll at least give us an idea on what this new iteration of the Texans team can actually do going forward.
I've had dreams of a 19-0 finish, or 23-0 if you want to include preseason, but I know that is next to impossible. I'm very much a Brock Osweiler optimist, and with how good the rookies and Lamar Miller have looked so far, I think our offense has been taken to the next level. Our defense is still as good as it was towards the end of the season last year, with Clowney looking even better.
With all that said, I think we take a step forward from last year. Even with my most pessimistic hat on, I have us at 9-7. It's difficult for me to envisage an 11 win season with this schedule, so I think 10-6 is around the right area, with losses against the Chiefs, Patriots, Raiders, Packers, Colts and Bengals (although the Week 16 signing of T.J. Yates will push this to a 11 win season with the guarantee Bengal slaying).
HOUSTON DIEHARDS: 10-6.
I was finally ready this year to bust out of my annual 9-7 prediction. The offense seems to be headed for significant improvement, and the defense returns with essentially the same group - poised to pick up where it left off - avoiding the rough start it suffered last year.
But there's this one thing I can't get over, and that's the road schedule. With trips to New England, Minnesota, Denver, Green Bay, etc., it's hard to imagine an exceptional record (I consider exceptional to be 12-4 and better). That said, the season never quite pans out the way you think it will (just see last year's prediction thread). I'm definitely sketchy on Houston's offensive line and their lack of depth up front on the defense. I just feel like this year's team merits a bit more optimism than I typically allow myself. I have the Texans going 10-6 and winning the AFC South.
KDENTIFY: 11-5 or 12-4.
The Texans fanatic in me wants to believe in 19-0, but DEN, GB and NE give me pause. I'd like to believe the team can make NRG their fortress and win all eight home games, as well as at MIN, JAX, TEN, OAK, and IND. That would give us a 13-3 record, but we sometimes don't like to defend, so I'll go with 11-5 or 12-4. If there's one home game that gives me pause, it's CIN, because despite the memes, CIN plays us tough.
Getting Watt back for Game 1, and keeping him healthy throughout the season, as well as JD's continued development and a stronger LB corps, should help us with defending strong offenses. Osweiler and the o-line are the wildcard. I've seen OB get some bog-standard QBs into the playoffs, so I'm choosing to believe that we won't do that "George Godsey is calling the plays" nonsense we toyed with last season, and Osweiler demonstrates that our faith in him is not misplaced.
CAPT RON: 11-5.
The Texans went 9-7 last year as they bounced between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett at quarterback, and fielded just one real NFL caliber threat at receiver in DeAndre Hopkins as rookie Jaelen Strong was still coming up to speed. The running game was limited after Arian Foster's season-ending injury, and the offense often stalled in low scoring performances week after week. The defense kept the score close in most games, but often succumbed to exhaustion late in the second half with the offense failing to sustain drives. Bill O'Brien still found a way to chisel out NINE wins under those conditions. Now he has a serious injection of "potential" stars across offensive skill positions, including a massive increase in average speed throughout the roster. If the QB performance improves with the arrival of Brock Osweiler, this team should notch at least two more victories than last year.
The last few seasons, the Texans have started slow and solidified by mid-year. I think that changes this year due to the majority of starting players returning on defense and finally having a greatly improved special teams group. The early weakness may be the revamped roster on offense, as you have an injury-ravaged offensive line, a quarterback learning the system, a running back learning the system, and a young receiving group with rookies not only learning this offense, but getting up to speed at the NFL level.
That being said, the team will hit the bye week with a 6-2 record. I think they hit a mid-season slump coming off the bye, and lose @Jaguars, @Raiders (in Mexico City), @Packers, and then begin to build momentum heading into the playoffs as the AFC South Champions.
BRETT KOLLMANN: 11-5.
I expect the Texans to end up somewhere in the 11-5 range. I originally predicted a 9-7 or 10-6 finish a couple of months ago, but after seeing the rapid development of Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, and Brock Osweiler in this new-look offense, it's hard not to be optimistic. J.J. Watt is returning from injury quicker than anticipated, and Duane Brown should be taking the field at some point in the next few weeks. Throw all that in with a dominant defensive unit even without Watt on the field, and you've got a recipe for one of the most well-balanced rosters in the entire league.
The Texans have enough talent to go toe to toe with every other powerhouse team in the NFL. They've got enough weapons to win shootouts, plenty of talent in the front seven to win defensive slug-fests, and potentially even a franchise quarterback for the first time since the prime years of Matt Schaub. Hell, by the end of the season they might even win more than 11 games, but with an improved AFC South and a brutal slate of games against other first place teams, it is certainly realistic to expect some losses to get picked up along the way.
Your 2016 Houston Texans roster is incredibly bi-polar, loaded with starting stars and scrubs alike. It reminds me in awful ways of the 2013 roster talent-wise, but with this one being considerably younger, the downside risk certainly isn't there.
The good news is the team finally addressed QB, and Brock Osweiler will hopefully not shart himself as badly as Brian Hoyer on a weekly basis. J.J. Watt will be suiting up for Game 1 as well. The bad news is that Duane Brown is out for at least a couple weeks, and it's questionable at this stage of his career if he's still an NFL quality left tackle. Without Brown, the offensive line goes from below average to pretty terrible. Major question marks at DE and NT means that both of our lines, where games are won and lost, are in trouble.
Still, this is the most physically talented team in Houston Texans history, one that should be able to pick up yards in chunks and get to the QB. On paper, this looks like a 10-6 team to me, which would get them into the playoffs.
MATT WESTON: 10-6.
It's going to take ten games to win this division this year and Houston is more talented than Indy is. Even if Andrew Luck morphs back into a slobbering, OMG throwing, Frankenmonster, the disparity in defense, the run game, and coaching will get the Texans that extra win over Indy to get them into the playoffs again.
RYAN DUNSMORE: 10-6.
I would go to 11-5 or 12-4 if the Texans hadn't been ravaged injuries on the offensive line. But a division title seems attainable with the Texans' window right now. The Jaguars and Titans have built up their roster, and the Colts have Andrew Luck. If the Texans aren't going to push the chips to the center now, when will they? The floor for the Texans' defense is high, and the additions of QB Brock Osweiler, WR Will Fuller, WR Braxton Miller, and RB Tyler Ervin will make a big difference. The aspect that has held the Texans back of late has been the offense, so a stable quarterback situation and weapons for him to use will make a big difference.
UPROOTED TEXAN: 10-6.
I keep going back and forth between 9-7 and 10-6. Had Watt, Brown, and Newton not come back in time to start the season, I'd think 9-7 was the optimistic end of things. So for this purpose, I'll say 10-6. I haven't had a lot of chances to see the Texans play in the preseason, but what I have seen of the offense (particularly the passing game) gives me hope that maybe this is the push that the Texans need to get past the middle-of-the-road team they've been the last couple of years. With the improved passing game, I think the Texans are better in every respect than the Colts (even coaching), and neither the Jags or the Traitors scare me.
Oh, and the Texans are going to the Super Bowl. I have foreseen it.
RIVERS McCOWN: 9-7.
I am torn on just how much I think Andrew Luck will rebound. I do think the depth in the division is a bit better. I expect the Houston receiving corps to be a bit better, and the line to be a bit worse. If Osweiler totally blossoms, I can see myself looking stupid, but I'm expecting something along the lines of Alex Smith with more deep balls and turnovers.
I'm going with 10-6, which should result in the AFC South crown. Preseason optimism aside, I expect the Texans to take some time to round into form. Brock Osweiler is going to face adversity he hasn't yet dealt with in the NFL, thanks in part to an offensive line that's been ravaged by injury before a single meaningful snap has been played. Osweiler is going to struggle at times; it's to be expected for anyone who doesn't want to be a Bronco.
The good news is that I believe Bill O'Brien is shrewd enough to scheme around any shortcomings or growing pains as much as possible. With Lamar Miller and a legitimately dangerous foursome of wideouts, the talent is there for the Texans to find a way.
On defense, it's all a question of what kind of J.J. Watt we get. If something close to the monster we've seen since 2012 appears, Houston's defense will be one of the absolute best in the league. If we get a Watt that's operating on significantly lower power, this defense will still be above-average, but likely not capable of imposing its will on opposing offenses. My guess is that we see the latter for the first portion of the season with the possibility of getting increasingly frequent flashes of the former during the second half of the schedule.
That’s a LOT of optimism from the staff here at BRB. Share your reactions and chime in with your bold predictions for the 2016 regular season.
Bears vs Texans coverage