Last season the Houston Texans lost to the Colts in Week 17. I loved every second of it. By doing so, the Texans were kicked down the stairs into the sp00ky basement of the AFC South. It was the only way things should end in a season where Tom Savage was the team’s most constant starting quarterback. 2017 was a remembrance we can forever cherish in Pro Football Reference’s Franchise History. Perhaps the most exciting thing about that last place finish is that it gave the Texans the Browns and Broncos in 2018, parts that contributed to their easy upcoming regular season schedule.
Like 2013, the Texans weren’t a bad football team last year. They were an unlucky one. They won 1.7 less games than their Pythagorean record indicated. Their turnover differential was a -12. They went 1-5 in one-score games. They played the eleventh toughest schedule in the NFL last year. Additionally, they were ravaged by injuries. Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, and Whitney Mercilus were all lost for the year.
Teams in the Texans’ position almost always improve the following season. Talented teams don’t stay down for long, especially talented teams coming fresh off a black cat riddled season. Every year in the NFL, there are one to two teams who make the jump from four wins or less to the NFL Playoffs, and 2018 shouldn’t be any different.
Dan Hanzus with NFL.com gave some subjective thoughts on the matter. He claimed the Texans and Broncos are the favorites to make the jump from worst to first in 2019. Hanzus had the following to say regarding the Texans:
Like the Broncos, here’s a situation where an improved team meets a wide-open division. For the Texans, just getting healthy could be enough to punch a ticket back to January. This is a defense that -- health willing -- will include J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and Tyrann Mathieu. There are durability concerns with all those stars, but the upside is undeniable. The same can be said about an offense led by quarterback Deshaun Watson (a legit phenom as a rookie before hurting his knee). Houston’s offense isn’t perfect: The offensive line is a question mark and the hope is that D’Onta Foreman pushes the underwhelming Lamar Miller in the backfield. But I like the stars here, and I really like the head coach, Bill O’Brien, who consistently gets the most out of his teams.
As for the rest of the AFC South? I’ll spare you the obligatory Blake Bortles misgivings, but let’s just say nothing should be assumed with the Jaguars. The Colts have their Andrew Luck thing going on. If this division is indeed heading for a shake-up, don’t be surprised if it’s the Texans and Titans fighting for the top spot come late December.
I agree that Houston and Denver are the favorites to go from worst to first this year. My May brain thinks Kansas City drops off some with Patrick Mahomes in his first year as a starting quarterback and a rebuilding defense and that the Raiders are a Madden 2007 enigma. The Chargers are the most talented team in the AFC West, but the Chargers love to underperform their actual win-loss record. They can’t get enough of it. I also really like Case KEEEENUUUUM throwing balloons in the uplifting mountain air to go along with a defense that should be great.
In the AFC South, I’m not as confident about the Texans as Hanzus. Andrew Luck isn’t going to play this year. The Titans are pretty good at a couple of things, but there is too much turnover to really know what’s going on. I loved Houston’s offseason. I love Deshaun Watson, but the touchdown rate thing and the injury concerns still worry me. Until I see a continuation of Houston’s offense working, it’s impossible to be 100% confident in it. The Jags are at the top of the division and should stay there. Once again, they will have a top five defense. They will ground bones into dust, and they’ve gone all in on a style play that should work as long as Blake Bortles doesn’t turn the ball over.
Do you think the Texans will go from the cellar of the AFC South in 2017 to the top of it in 2018?