With the 2017 NFL season kicking off last night, it is once again time for us to predict the outcome for our beloved Houston Texans . The staff at BRB have all given their predictions, and you can add your own in the comments section below!
Note: The staff predictions are divided in half, and this is is the first of two posts.
What's good: Most of it! This defense is going to terrify QBs, and it should do a solid job against the run. D.J. Reader, who will replace the Bloated Corpse Formerly Known as Vince Wilfork, should be a meaningful upgrade. J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and Benardrick McKinney will collect sacks by the bunch.
What's not so good: Johnathan Joseph is 33 years old this year, and CB is a hard position to stay at in your mid-30s. With Kareem Jackson no longer capable of playing even average CB, we're hoping Joseph continues to drink from the Fountain of Youth. Safety play is likely to be below average, and our slot CB situation looks troubling.
What's good: Ka'imi Fairbairn? Tyler Ervin has looked less like Tyler Scissorhands in the pre-season?
What's not so good: Everything else. How the Texans special teams units can be so bad year after year after year is impressively awful.
What's good: DeAndre Hopkins.
What's not so good: Even if Duane Brown ends his holdout, the offensive line play will not be adequate, especially when Tom Savage is at QB, with his tendency to hold on to the ball far too long. The scheme is terrible. If your scheme is so complicated that only Tom Brady can run it, you're doing it wrong.
Summary: There's little reason to believe this team will be much different in 2017 than it was in 2016. When you consider we traded our second round pick to Cleveland to dump Brock Osweiler, traded up to get Deshaun Watson, who is riding the pine, and weren't players in free agency, it makes sense. Sure, we get JJ Watt back, but Joseph, Jackson, and Brian Cushing are all a year older and a year slower. It's the instant replay button.
Then, consider that Bill O'Brien is 14-4 against the AFC South and only 13-17 against the rest of the NFL, and the AFC South is not a dumpster fire this year. With the first place schedule, and even going 4-2 in the division, which might be a stretch, this is a tough schedule. To the board!
JAX - W
@CIN - L
@NE - Lol
BE-SFs - W
KC - L
CLE - W
@SEA - L
IND - W
@LAR - W
PHX - L
@BAL - L
@BE-SFs - L
SF - W
@JAX - L
PIT - L
@IND - W
That shakes out to 7-9, which sounds about right to me.
I can see the Texans taking five out of six in the division, thanks almost entirely to the defense and the fact that they play in a joke of a division. (For the record, I think the one intra-division loss is to the Colts and Jacoby Brissett, because of course it would be.)
The problem, of course, is the offense. Or, perhaps more accurately, QB play. And special teams, because they are always bad. So how many wins do the Texans get outside of the division? I'm going to answer that question with another question: When does Deshaun Watson take over for Tom Savage? Assuming Watson takes over the week after the bye (which seems likely), I'm saying Savage beats the Chiefs and that's it. I think Watson beats the Rams, Cards, and Niners. So...9-7, I guess.
Honestly, I feel more confident in BFD's 7-9 than my 9-7, but, whatever. Football is here. (Tempered) hope springs eternal.
The Texans’ defense should continue their reign as the best in the league this season as Houston's favorite weapon (and hurricane relief fundraising superstar) J.J. Watt returns to the lineup. The defensive line will be the stuff of opponents' nightmares, with Watt, Clowney, Mercilus, McKinney, Reader, Covington, and Cushing combining to form the most daunting front seven in football.
But the offense once again gives me pause. Yes, DeAndre Hopkins finally got his extension and will continue to be a bright point on the Texans’ offense for a long time. Running backs Lamar Miller and D'Onta Foreman should be an exciting and effective one-two punch. But the quarterback situation is still iffy at best (with no idea if Savage or Watson will be the starter by the halfway point of the season) and the offensive line still has some questions to answer (Duane Brown, for example).
Bottom line, this defense should be good enough to carry the Texans to a ten-win record. That’s all we can really hope for at this point.
Rivers McCown: 8-8
Deshaun Watson will be caught drinking the blood of infants a la Christopher Reeves on “South Park.”
I actually feel pretty conflicted about this team. On the one hand, J.J. Watt's back is ...back...and I like their odds to be a top-five pass defense even with a shaky secondary, because I don't know who will be blocking a healthy Clowney/Watt/Mercilus combination on third downs. On the other hand, I thought Watson struggled pretty badly in the preseason and that lowers my entire projection of the ceiling of their offense. Just about everything on the offensive side of the ball has been bad news since the draft, from the secondary receivers getting hurt to Duane Brown holding out. The lone exception is the play of Nick Martin. The fact that Bill O'Brien is preaching completion percentage and is happy to run an offense of checkdowns scares me, not only because it means more Tom Savage, but also because I think Savage on third down against a real NFL pass rush is asking for turnovers.
Then you look at the Jaguars and they're still Bortling towards nowhere, and the Colts without Andrew Luck or Vontae Davis are basically a d-league team. While the Titans are definitely the main competition they're made out to be, I think they've got some flaws on merit and I wouldn't expect them to have the best running game in the NFL this year. (Marcus Mariota and new receivers could offset that, of course.) I've never been a Mike Mularkey fan.
I think the likeliest scenario is something in the 9-7 to 7-9 range, probably 8-8. Even that feels like more credit than the Houston offense deserves, but I dislike the rest of the division that much.
Mike Bullock: 7-9 or 10-6
I think this season all comes down to defense versus offense. In other words, which games Houston's defense can win and which ones will require the offense to be, well, less offensive.
While I love Deshaun Watson, have high hopes for D'Onta Foreman, dig the fact D-Hop finally got paid, and think the playmakers are absolutely electric, Bill O'Brien's offensive scheme, coupled with Rick Smith's inability to assemble a professional grade offensive lin,e means this team is going to have to rely on the defense to get the Ws.
Thankfully, Mike Vrabel's unit has the potential to be one of the five best in NFL history.
If they play to their potential, and they should, Houston goes 10-6 and wins the AFC South Division crown again.
Should the special teams kill them, or a few key injuries hamstring the overall defensive effort, 7-9 is the best I think we can hope for based on the above factors.
Those are the first half of our staff predictions for this season. You can discuss your own hopes, dreams, and expectations for 2017 in the comments section below!