The 2019 season kicks off tonight at 7:20 p.m. CDT. Before the gates open up and everything we thought was going to happen comes to absolute ruin, the Masthead has made their predictions for what happens to the Texans during the 2019 season.
I think the Texans will be blessed by the fact that the AFC South is back to being a pseudo dumpster fire again and the potential to farm wins off of bad teams is truly on the table again. I also think the Texans’ offense will hit a peak at some point during the season, and it will be enough to carry the Texans to a victory against a team they otherwise shouldn’t win against.
I don’t believe the team will capitulate and sink to something lower than 8-8, but I don’t trust Bill O’Brien’s playcalling enough to not potentially screw them out of one or two games at some point this season.
I don’t know what kind of defense the Texans will have this season, but this offense should be something special for the three or four weeks when every part of it is healthy.
Before Andrew Luck retired, I saw the Texans as a five (5) or six (6) win team. Instead of being swept by Indy, I now see us splitting against them.
Defensively, we are much worse off than last year for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is the schedule. QBs only had to be Nick Foles good to beat us in 2018, and we aren’t facing many QBs worse than that in 2019. With Jadeveon Clowney gone, we have only one true pass rusher on the entire roster, J.J. Watt. Whitney Mercilus and Jacob Martin will help, but we aren’t going to hassle the QB without blitzing.
And blitzing with our secondary probably isn’t the best idea. Houston’s secondary is slightly upgraded from 2018, but not by much. Even without Clowney, we should be above average stopping the rush, but the Texans ‘rush defense was historic in 2018, posting the 8th best DVOA since 1986. That will not happen again.
Offensively, who the heck knows? Bill O’Brien, Offensive Coordinator, has been one of the worst in the league since he got to Houston. Unimaginative with the complete inability to adjust or evaluate talent, it often takes him until the bye week to make changes. BOB’s inability to understand what he has in Deshaun Watson is infuriating. It’s akin to owning a dragster but never taking it out of first gear.
That said, if we see Houston’s offense come out like it did in the second preseason game and push the ball down the field, that could change. Maybe nominal OC Tim Kelly has convinced BOB that the forward pass is a good thing in today’s NFL.
Otherwise? If BOB plans on using Carlos Hyde like he did Lamar Miller and run him into the backs of the offensive linemen in order to establish the run at all costs, as BOB has his entire career, my expectation, our best hope is to fall behind early so that Watson is forced to throw the ball. The Eagles game last year comes to mind as a perfect example.
Because of the schedule, and because of how the schedule focuses on BOB’s weaknesses (almost everything) instead of his strengths (except for YELLING), I do not think we make the NFL Playoffs. Since the day BOB got to Houston, he has wholly relied upon the defense to be successful. In 2019, BOB will no longer have that crutch, and he lacks the football intelligence and imagination to succeed in the NFL on his own merits.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a 2019 Texans season preview. I had Houston slated at 8-8. I thought the pass defense would be okay as long as Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt were ruining offenses all on their own, and the run defense would once again be one of the best in the league. I love the passing offense from a quarterback and skill position stand point, and I still do; they have a player who can attack a defense in every way, their skills are specific and singular, and now they have Will Fuller insurance in Kenny Stills.
But, even with Laremy Tunsil, the offensive line is still bad. Did you know that there are four other spots on the Texans’ offensive line that range from average to awful? Did you know that Anthony Castonzo was competent when Andrew Luck was smashed 452 times over his career? Did you know that the Dolphins’ offensive line was crappy even with Tunsil? Against this schedule, the Texans are going to have win shootouts against great passing offenses, something Bill O’Brien has never done before.
Then the Texans traded Clowney. Houston’s pass rush is going to crater without him. Subbing in for him is Brennan Scarlett. I’m going to vomit. The Texans’ pass defense depends on its pass rush, and against this slate of quarterbacks, teams are going to trounce them.
Remember 2018? Throw the ball to beat the Houston Texans. That’s going to be pushed to its upper limit. Johnathan Joseph struggles against fast receivers and deep passes. Bradley Roby can’t cover true number one wideouts. Aaron Colvin was awful as a slot corner last year. They’re going to depend on J.J. Watt, who received one-on-one matchups against right tackles because of the presence Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus, Both Mercilus and Watt have only been healthy in one of the last three seasons. The Clowney trade was absurd on its own, and it’s especially absurd for a team who is supposedly looking to win now after trading two first round picks and a second.
I don’t see it at all this year. Against this schedule, with the problems on this roster, I see them dropping to 6-10. They’ll squeak out the occasional close win against teams that have to run the ball and then look confused when they can’t stop teams like Atlanta, New Orleans, Kansas City, and so many others.
This is a highly optimistic prediction. However, I don’t see any team in the AFC South as a serious threat to the Texans. The quarterback questions for the “competition” are going to lead to a division sweep for the Texans. That’s a guaranteed six wins.
Can this team win five more games? I think so. While you can’t base anything off of last year, the fact that Houston won nine straight games and Deshaun Watson was the one leading the charge bodes well for this team. I predict Deshaun has a MONSTER season this year, leading Houston to another midseason hot streak.
It’s not all good news, though. A lack of defensive talent and depth will cause the Texans to start 2-4 against a rough schedule. BOB’s butt is going to be burning but he has a luxury that none of his competing coaches in the AFC South have....a legit QB.
The symmetry of success and failure continues to surround this team as it has since Bill O’Brien arrived. Houston wins a few games they shouldn’t and they lose a few games they shouldn’t. In a league that is designed and functions very much as an 8-8 construct, it is only because of a few stars on the field (Watt, Watson and Hopkins, to name a few) who improvise to make their own luck and raise their team above the mean so that O’Brien can point to a division championship banner when asked fair decision-making questions by the media: “AFC South Champs, Brian.”
The Texans have the same “bend-don’t-break” defense to keep tough games close, but they also have an offense that should finally put up more touchdowns than field goals and can boat race with anyone in the league, thanks to better protection for Watson and more targets for him to leverage. I predict the season starts out choppy as the new very-late additions to the roster settle in and get up to speed with the notoriously complex offensive scheme, but we finally get a couple of signature victories that bring the team recognition as an AFC contender.
Houston exits the NFL Playoffs in divisional round in a wild shootout that has everyone convinced that Watson is indeed the future, with his only limitations coming from the sidelines with terrible situational play calling that our hero has to overcome through frequent improvisation. The national media and analysts declare that the Texans should have reached the AFC Championship, possibly even the Super Bowl, if only they had an effective offensive coordinator. In other words, not much changes for 2019 from the last five years, but the team looks better doing it.
The Texans wrap the regular season with a 10-6 record and win the division.
I have no confidence in what has transpired this offseason. It’s not what the Texans didn’t accomplish to make this team better; it’s what they have done in a lackluster, disjointed, and short-term way that had put us in a poor position heading into 2019. Every move they made was C-. Each individual move could have been great, but Houston failed to execute every move.
What’s more likely—a total collapse or a Super Bowl? 8 out of 10 times, I’m going to say total collapse.
I don’t see enough improvement from last year in the following areas:
1. Defensive backs. Different, but how improved? And will the improvement be dramatic? We’ll see. One thing that will definitely improve in 2019? The quality of opposing quarterbacks.
2. Offensive line. They’re sure to be improved with the addition of Laremy Tunsil - but when you’ve improved from near or DEAD F**KING LAST, where does that get you exactly?
3. Pass rush. This will unquestionably be worse with the loss of JD Clowney.
4. Head coach. Perhaps the most maddening thing that Bill O’Brien did as a coach last season was in the last game of the year, in the playoffs against the Colts, when the Texans treated a multi-score deficit with five minutes left in the game as if it were a tie game in the second quarter. I doubt very seriously O’Brien has improved his coaching style or ability this offseason, especially when you consider he’s been very busy also being a terrible personnel man and one head of ??? of the Texans’ GM Hydra.
5. I could go on, but I want to wait to be sad until Monday night.
Let’s just go through all their games versus teams I predicted for the playoffs in the 2019 NFL predictions.
Texans @ Chargers: If Melvin Gordon isn’t there, that takes away a dynamic to that offense. Derwin James definitely won’t be there. I like both teams’ pass rush, but I think Watson’s legs can win this one.
Panthers @ Texans: A home game against a team with offensive line concerns and a quarterback coming off shoulder surgery. It might take a while for Cam Newton to hit his stride, and I’m not sure Week 4 will be that game.
Texans @ Chiefs: I look at this game and worry that Patrick Mahomes will light up the Texans’ questionable secondary, but I also don’t think it’s impossible for an upset. I’m not sure how KC’s defense will look with Dee Ford gone from a unit that was already next to last in the league, though the addition of Frank Clark will definitely help. Tyrann Mathieu is a solid addition, but Texans fans know he was more name than production. What if Whitney Mercilus steps up to pair with Watt and all hell breaks loose on KC’s offensive line?
Patriots @ Texans: The Texans usually play the Patriots well, and the last few games in recent memory took place in Foxborough. The Patriots’ offensive line has concerns with David Andrews’ issues and Isaiah Wynn making his debut. Rob Gronkowski isn’t there to block either. Deshaun was rustier than a 25-year old Walmart brand bicycle opening week last year, yet it was still not a dominating win from NE. All I’m saying is that this one is winnable.
Let me be clear: I am not predicting the Texans WILL win these games. I am simply stating that they have a chance in all of them. If they go 2-2 in these, I feel good about them.
The rest of the schedule is muck. Houston also ends the year with the Broncos, Titans, Bucs, and Titans again. A lot of teams would love to have that schedule in December.
Let’s see if Laremy Tunsil shows why he was a silly bong hit video away from being a top five draft pick. Let’s keep Will Fuller healthy to stretch the defense. Let’s see if Brain starts coaching like someone lit a fire under his you know what.
I can see them being a strong 10-6, and with a lucky break, 11-5.
In the SB Nation NFL season preview, I called a 9-7 record for the good guys. That was before Andrew Luck retired, before the Texans traded Jadeveon Clowney, and before the Texans added Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills to the roster. What has not changed, however, is how I feel about Deshaun Watson.
I believe that a team with a true, honest-to-goodness franchise quarterback typically has a floor of seven wins in today’s NFL. That’s how important the position is. That’s how much impact a difference-maker under center can make on his team’s record. The caveat to that is of course that the QB must remain healthy; if said franchise quarterback gets hurt and misses significant time, all bets are off and the floor plummets accordingly. I think DW4 is a surefire franchise quarterback, and his presence on the roster dramatically minimizes the holes this team has elsewhere.
With Clowney’s departure, the Texans’ defense will be appreciably worse. I expect Romeo Crennel being forced to use Whitney Mercilus as a pass rusher again will help offset some of the loss, but not all of it. I think the realistic ceiling for Houston’s defense this year is average, and odds are that they’ll be worse than that.
On the other side of the ball, I expect the Texans’ offense to be appreciably better. While I readily acknowledge that Tunsil plays only one of the five positions on the offensive line, his ability to lock down the most important spot on that line should have a positive domino effect on the rest of the unit. Tytus Howard doesn’t have to play left tackle anymore; he can play left guard, the position he’s gotten virtually all his reps at throughout training camp and the preseason. I’d start Zach Fulton at center, Max Scharping at right guard, and cross my fingers before praying Seantrel Henderson can give me some relief at right tackle, with the understanding I’ll likely need Darren Fells to help on that side. That line is not going to set the world on fire, but I have hope it can be passable, which is all Deshaun Watson needs.
Especially with a wide receiver group that includes DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, and Kenny Stills. History says Fuller and Coutee will miss time, so the addition of Stills is monstrous to ensure the Texans have at least two legitimate receiving threats on the field at all times.
The absence of Lamar Miller will hurt, but I’m cautiously optimistic that Bill O’Brien and/or Tim Kelly will use short passes as pseudo-runs to play to Duke Johnson’s strengths and to keep him from taking a beating between the tackles. Carlos Hyde will play the role of Alfred Blue this year, siphoning some snaps in short yardage situations.
Last year, many of us were excited by the possibility of Houston’s offense looking similar to what we saw when Deshaun Watson was under center in 2017. That didn’t happen. This year, with a defense that cannot be asked to shut opponents—especially the kinds of opponents that boast stud QBs of their own—down, the Texans will have no choice but to let it fly. If Bill O’Brien insists on the status quo, insists on not turning Watson loose, the 2019 Texans season will be a failure, and that failure will lay firmly at O’Brien’s feet. I have to believe O’Brien knows that. He may be stubborn, but he ain’t stupid. As such, expect a high-flying, entertaining Houston offense that’ll have to score points to win games.
Here’s how I predict the season shaking out...
TEXANS LOSSES: @ Saints, @ Chargers, Falcons, @ Chiefs, @ Colts, @ Ravens, Patriots.
That’s 9-7. Two weeks ago, I didn’t think that’d be enough to win the division. With Luck’s retirement, I now think 9-7 can win the AFC South. In terms of how far the 2019 Houston Texans will advance in the NFL Playoffs, I’ll wait to see who they host in their Wild Card game.
That’s how we feel. Leave your predictions in the comments below.