When NFL owners and general managers hire head coaches, the usual goal is to build a team that will beat the other teams in your division. Winning the division is a surefire path to the NFL Playoffs, which puts your team that much closer to the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl. When the Houston Texans hired head coach Bill O’Brien in 2014, the goal may have been just that, with some extra emphasis on beating the Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts, but times have changed. Now it seems like O’Brien’s top priority is to beat the New England Patriots.
When you think about it, that’s a pretty solid goal that more often than not nets a similar outcome to the one outlined above.
Since the dawn of the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era, the path to AFC supremacy has almost always run through New England. Since the Texans organization was born, the Patriots have been in the AFC Championship Game eleven times. There have only been two seasons where Belichick didn’t take his team into the postseason during that span. Gunning for the Pats is a smart strategy.
As we once again ride through the weeks and months of predictions for the coming season, the Patriots are not so shockingly the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl again. But there are some who go against the grain in that thinking.
It’s actually pretty easy to agree with Hall here. While J.J. Watt’s skills might prematurely diminish due to injuries, Tom Brady surely can’t continue to defy Father Time. Especially if he’s facing AFC South teams whose defenses are built to follow the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens’ battle plan for beating the Patriots: Hit Brady early, often, and HARD.
Brady will turn 41 years old before the 2018 season starts. It’s hard to imagine a world where a 41-year-old – a senior citizen in NFL years – can continually endure the beating that comes with being an NFL quarterback while continuing to deliver Hall of Fame caliber performances.
On the flip side, Romeo Crennel is back in the saddle in Houston and has more talent at his disposal than he’s arguably ever had. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham, Dylan Cole, Johnathan Joseph, Aaron Colvin, Justin Reid and the Honey Badger...as an opposing offensive coordinator, who do you try to neutralize? Who do you try to exploit?
Now, the flipside of DeAngelo Hall’s commentary is the injury bug; it will surely bite the 2018 Texans in some way shape or form. However, Houston does have a tremendous amount of cap space right now and could still bring in some solid depth to develop when the next man up strategy comes into play.
Either way, make no mistake: When September 9th rolls around and the Texans ride into Gillette Stadium, Brady better be on his toes as a “healthy as they get” Houston defense is coming after him.
Starting the season 1-0 is a good deal, but doing so knowing you put the Pats down in their own house takes it to a whole new level.
Let’s toss out some predictions. What do you think the final score will be in the Week One matchup? Which Texans will shine while making their mark on New England?