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BRB GroupThink: Right The Ship

The masthead joins together and discusses how Houston’s loss to Kansas City has affected their 2020 season projections.

Houston Texans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

After falling down 31-7 and losing 31-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs, with upcoming games against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Jacksonville, and Tennessee, how concerned are you about Houston’s 2020 season? Are you still expecting them to make the NFL Playoffs, or do you now think they may find themselves in too deep of a hole to do so?

These were the two questions I asked the masthead. Here are their responses:

RJ METZGER:

I still think one-and-done or divisional round exits are the ceiling with Bill O’Brien’s team. This one, based on defense alone, may miss the playoffs entirely. Which would promote an investment in the defense for a 2021 season of one-and-done or divisional round exit. This “great success” will look like progress to Cal McNair ensuring we repeat the cycle in 2022.

A win against Baltimore might break my thoughts from that awful potential future, but the Texans did beat the Chiefs last year. Deshaun Watson is the only thing that might legitimately push the team beyond its limit, but its limit is set.

We’ve seen this movie before. I just hope it’s not going to repeat for three more years. I will say this: At least we know DW4 will give us some fun stuff to watch along the way.

MIKE BULLOCK:

I think we’re trapped in a cycle of “Any Given Sunday” hope clouding our eyes to reality. The Texans win games they aren’t expected to due to the any given Sunday mentality. Then everyone gets hopeful, and the following week they lose to a bad team like the Denver Broncos.

This is life with Bill O’Brien.

He never has the team ready to take the field.

He never manages the clock well.

He never makes the right call in a tough situation.

He can’t mold his offensive scheme to fit the talent he has.

He can’t show up big time in big time games.

It’s been the same for SIX YEARS. Even if Cal McNair gives him ownership of the team, it won’t get any better.

If it weren’t for the nigh superhuman talent of J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and a few others, O’Brien’s career coaching record would look far worse than it does. Watson and Watt go off script and make things happen. Hopkins is so talented and such a hard worker it’s just not fair to most of the league’s defensive backs. Those players have won games in spite of, not thanks to, Bill O’Brien’s leadership.

At the end of the day, the head coach makes a way bigger difference than any one player. A great coach can win with an average team. An average coach can’t win with a great team, as we’ve seen again and again.

Handing O’Brien control of personnel just let that bad decision-making bleed over into the general manager role. Now Houston is sorely lacking in the ability to build through the draft, with a head coach that thinks he can win it all with guys not good enough to stick with the Cleveland Browns. O’Brien blew a wealth of cap space and draft capital over the last few years. It’s going to snowball.

If Houston pulls off a win this weekend against Baltimore, in no way will it be thanks to Bill O’Brien. It will be in spite of him...

BIGFATDRUNK:

The Houston Texans are football’s version of Groundhog Day. They’ll beat up lesser teams, win one game they shouldn’t, and do just enough to get the 6th or 7th seed in the AFC. Then, they get blown out in the playoffs.

Strive for mediocrity!

The loss to Kansas City doesn’t change this.

L4BLITZER:

Week 1 does not make a season, barring a catastrophic injury. For the Texans, they at least dodged that curse. They were playing on the road against arguably the best team in the league, against a coach who is one of the best at winning with significant time off (bye or offseason). That Houston lost, and by a significant margin, however disappointing it was for us fans, was expected. How many times in the past season openers did the Texans win, or even start the season 2-0, only to end up back in the NFL Playoffs at the end of the year?

Granted, the way that they lost could portend some serious red flags for the rest of the season. We barely saw any flashes of a newer wide-open Warp Speed Passing Attack, the defense could do little to stop Kansas City doing whatever they wanted when they wanted to, and the offensive line, which we all thought would be competent, reverted to its matador-style pass blocking of the previous couple of years. With perhaps the next best, or the best team, depending on what you think, on the docket, another brutal loss seems very possible.

However, I am not quite ready to ordain 2020 a lost season for the squad just yet. Watson is now 0-3 in season-opening starts, and O’Brien is 2-5 in season openers. Yet the past two seasons, the squad opened up the year with a loss, and it ended with a division championship. In the previous four seasons when Houston lost on opening day, the team descend into the inferno of a poor NFL record only in 2017, and injuries had as much to do with that as any other factor.

It can be tough in the short term, but I will look for the long game. Even if Houston opens 1-3, that might be par for most projections for the team. Are there areas for concern? Oh yeah, there are plenty. Certainly, if Houston plays like they did against Kansas City, especially against weaker competition, Houston could very much be staring down the abyss of not only a lost season, but the specter of a losing era. If we start 0-4, I will freely admit panic and fear for the future. Until then, I will hold the course and figure the team will do enough to get back into the playoff chase.

CARLOS FLORES:

Personally, I didn’t expect the Texans to upset the Chiefs. Frankly, I don’t expect them to shock the world against the Ravens either. With the difficult stretch the team faces to open the season, I see their first win being an upset against Pittsburgh.

The major concern is the staggering inefficiency the offense displayed in the season opener. They have to get it fixed in a hurry. The defense was expected to be bad, but they have exceeded expectations in that regard.

If the team comes out in a 0-3 hole, which is completely within the realm of possibility, it could spell doom for the remainder of the season. The schedule after the bye week is significantly easier than what the Texans have on their plate right now. If they can at least secure three or four wins before the bye, the table is set for a playoff run. A divisional round exit sounds about right, and we’ll spend another year on the treadmill of mediocrity.

It’s not time for the panic button yet, but the protective case is currently flipped up.

CAPT RON:

Sadly, I think Houston is staring down the barrel of a 6-10 record this season. The first-place schedule is lining up to be a sawed-off hamstring to open the season 0-3, 1-4 at best. O’Brien is well documented for slow starts, and facing AFC juggernauts in the first two weeks is just plain cruel. The defense has been eviscerated by ludicrous neglect and general manager malpractice. The offense continues to be strapped down like Hannibal Lecter craving fava beans and a nice Chianti to go with end zone liver.

The Texans won’t make the playoffs after finishing third in the AFC South behind the Titans and Colts. Cal McNair will remain silent, and the local media will keep blowing smoke about how close the team is to really making a run. Meanwhile, people who can see the obvious flaws will point to “Year Eight” for O’Brien in 2021. Apathy will continue to slowly erode the support for a team that has made mediocrity more ubiquitous than that trough of food hell in Cincinnati called “Skyline Chili.”

JOE CRITZ:

Houston’s season will be determined in these next few games. I know the DeAndre Hopkins trade was bad, but I’m not sure it warranted a schedule like this. This is a terrifying stretch of games that would even make Bill Belichick double-take and wonder if he’ll be playing for draft capital by the bye week. It’s also the perfect opportunity for overlord Bill O’Brien to prove to us that he is, in fact, a good coach and general manager.

This is his opportunity to silence all doubters and naysayers by trudging through this monstrosity of a month’s slate and escaping with a respectable record. Both Minnesota and Tennessee’s secondary look suspect, and even the Steelers let Daniel Jones do some cooking early on. If Tim Kelly and O’Brien can realize the full potential of their offense in those games, we should have a chance to win them all. Against the Ravens and Packers, though? Good luck.

I would consider it a job well done if the Texans enter their bye week with a 3-4 record. Anything lower would mean full panic mode and serious doubt of making the playoffs, which is definitely possible. I’m going to stick to my preseason prediction of a division title and say the Texans will earn a few statement victories to stay alive.

MATT WESTON:

It’s difficult to make the postseason starting 0-2, and it’s nearly impossible to make it starting 0-3. The 2018 version of this team is one of the rare outliers to pull off that feat.

Losing to Kansas City didn’t change my opinion of this team, and losing to Balitmore won’t either. The problem is what comes after. The Steelers have the best front seven in the league and use a blitz-heavy approach that gives Houston fits. The Texans struggled covering Patrick Robinson last week. They’ll struggle covering James Washington as well.

After that, it’s the Vikings, whose cornerbacks couldn’t stay on top of their routes; the Jaguars, who are frisky if they actually PLAY TO WIN THE GAME this season; and the Titans, who showed offensive regression and a bumped-up pass and run defense on Monday night in Denver.

I still have faith that Deshaun Watson is good enough to keep Houston alive through this stretch, but like in 2018, the Texans may have to pull off the almost impossible to return to the postseason this year. This year, it may take the creation of the immaculate seventh seed to answer their prayers.

What say you? Do you feel different about the Texans after seeing how they looked against the Chiefs?