The Texans have popped back up like some 1990s plastic stocking hat wearing man and have gone from 0-3 to 2-3. Most of us are expecting a win over the silly Bills, with Houston playing Jacksonville in Week 6 as a 3-3 football team. With this turn of events, I asked the masthead what the best case scenario is or the Houston Texans in 2018.
ma·lar·key (məˈlärkē) noun—meaningless talk; nonsense.
Mu·lar·key (məˈlärkē) noun—former NFL head football coach of the Tennessee Titans.
Mu·lar·keyed (məˈlärkēd) verb—to be unexpectedly fired from one’s job even after the end results are there.
Last season the Tennessee Titans made the playoffs. They even won a playoff game. They then had their teeth kicked in by the New England Patriots. After the postseason, the Titans went from extending head coach Mike Mularkey to firing him, eventually replacing him with Mike Vrabel. Last season it became obvious that Marcus Mariota was stunted by exotic methmouth football, and what worked pretty well the year before had been dissected by the rest of the league. The previous gimmicks didn’t work. The halfback passes weren’t touchdowns. Mariota became inaccurate in the red zone. Derrick Henry was a bouncy, outside the tackle runner. Play-action became less effective. Mariota was injured again. Mularkey was gone.
This is the best case for the Texans this year. This team is too talented to be 2-3. It’s too talented to have to climb its way out of a slippery cave after falling 0-3. The team started 2018 being so dumb. The offense was hideous. Deshaun Watson wasn’t utilized as a runner, play action wasn’t used, the offense was run-run-shotgun pass-sacked-punt.
The last two weeks, things finally changed. Houston has been able to move the ball to the red zone. Crossing routes are open for Keke Coutee. Watson is running the ball on designed plays, which sets up play-action passes. DeAndre Hopkins is leading the league in receiving yards. The offensive line has been helped out a bit and Juli’en Davenport is playing left tackle again. Red zone offense is a fickle thing. It tends to balance itself out, and when it does, Houston should go back to scoring touchdowns.
But after this start, the constant misuse of timeouts and challenges, the team being ill-prepared to play, and other maladies like Eric Ebron catching a quick uncovered touchdown pass, no matter the record, it’s time for Houston to move on. After 0-3, the one shining light was that Houston was at least going to look for a new head coach who could drive this wagon. At 2-3, this is looking less likely. A firing probably won’t happen. Bill O’Brien will probably be around next year.
If I could simulate this season from this point on and stop once I was satisfied with the results, I would simulate, restart, simulate, simulate, and restart until J.J. Watt won Defensive Player of the Uear, the Texans made the playoffs as a wild card team and beat the Bengals, got smeared by New England to end the year, and then after all of it, the Texans fired O’Brien and moved on with their life. Best case? Houston makes the playoffs and fires O’Brien. This is a possibility, but there’s no way it’s going to happen. Houston will be a slightly below .500 team at worst, and O’Brien will be here forever.
“Best” case, I still think they have a chance of double-digit wins. Realistically, I’m thinking 8-8 is doable, but based on the context of the last 2.5 seasons, I’m calling 6-10 at this point.
Diehard “Why Is It Five Dallahs For A Bawtle Of Watah” Chris:
I think the Texans’ best-case scenario is still in play for 2018. For me that was 10-6, and while that is highly unlikely, it’s still a possibility. The more likely scenario of course is that Deshaun Watson inevitably gets injured, the league continues to pick apart Houston’s secondary, the Texans’ offensive line finds its level (below average instead of historically awful), and Bill O’Brien continues to confound our brains with, well, so many things.
The move to put Julie’n Davenport back to his more effective LT position was an improvement. After a slow start, Deshaun Watson has started to carve up defenses, and as we all know O’Brien finally, mercifully ended Houston’s preseason after regular season Week Three by returning to an offense suited more to Watson’s strengths. D’Onta Foreman is nearly back and once he gets his legs under him should be a significant improvement over Lamfred Millue. Keke Coutee has emerged as a weapon. The Texans’ pass rush has started to come alive on the strength of J.J. Watt and JD Clowney. Tyrann Mathieu is starting to settle in as a Texan, and Kareem Jackson is playing very well when he’s in there as a safety.
There are certainly reasons for optimism now that the Texans have a couple wins under their belt, but after just BARELY eeking out two late overtime games that you can argue were handed to the Texans due to questionable fourth down decisions by Frank Reich and Jason Garrett, I’m far from convinced. A convincing home win against the Bills would help, but with Watson’s status up in the air with a day-to-day “chest injury”, there’s still a ton of uncertainty. For me, 2018 is now all about Wait and See.
No team in the last 20 years has made the playoffs after an 0-3 start, so history is definitely not on the Texans’ side. However, their wins in the past two weeks are a step in the right direction. The team has strung two wins together in games they easily could have lost, so luck seems to be curving Houston’s way for a change.
Houston does have the league’s easiest strength of schedule in the last 12 weeks. That certainly helps. Outside of the Jags (x 2) and the Eagles in Week 16, Houston could win every game. However, given that it is the Texans, chances are it won’t be that simple.
The teams left on Houston’s schedule, the Buffalos, the Clevelands, the Miamis, the New Yorks of the world, are just as inconsistent as the Texans and it will all matter which version will show up on the given game day. The best case scenario is that Houston gets the worst version of all these teams on their game day and finishes 10-6. However, the chances of that happening aren’t very high. They will probably drop a game or two that they should win. The one good thing about the Texans this year is that they have been competitive in all five games this season. At least they are not folding immediately and taking the beating. If they go down, they find a way to at least try to get back up.
Realistically, the team falls somewhere between 7-9 to 9-7, missing the playoffs via a tiebreaker or by a game.
“With this turn of events, what is the best case scenario for the Houston Texans in 2018?”
The Texans finish the season 5-11 or worse, and there is no question that Brain O’Brain needs to be fired. With a third of the season gone, it’s clear that the Texans don’t have the coaching leadership it needs to contend into the post-season. Another 9-7 season means more of the same for 2019.
The best Houston can do is obviously 13-3. However, there’s no way that’s happening with the current coaching and play calling. They won two games they really should have lost if not for overtime mistakes by the opponent. That would have them sitting at 0-5 right now. We’ll take the wins, but the Texans should never have had to go into overtime in the first place. They should never have floundered the first halves of the first three games either. Poor coaching to not be ready and execute better!
Some good things are starting to take shape with respect to units on the field, but it’s a damn shame those were not sorted out before the regular season. I partly blame the CBA for limiting practice time, and I also blame O’Brien for not having the team ready to go.
It’s going to be tough sledding the rest of the way, but I think this team will finish 9-7 and face an early exit in the playoffs. Gee, some things never change.
Before the season began, I predicted your Houston Texans would go 11-5. At this point in the season, I thought they’d be 4-1 instead of 2-3. That would put the Texans two games off the pace I predicted, which drops them to 9-7.
I no longer foresee a loss to what’s become a struggling Broncos squad. Consequently, I revise the Texans’ best case scenario in 2018 to 10-6, which means they’d have go 8-3 the rest of the way.
Crazy? Perhaps. Unlikely? Indubitably.
But with Deshaun Watson, assuming he ceases the ritual sacrifice of his body every week, all things are possible.