The 2016 NFL season is not far away. The preseason is already one week in, and before you know it we will have meaningful football. In their first preseason game, the Houston Texans went into San Francisco and defeated the 49ers 24-13.
The Texans come into this season as the champs of the AFC South. Last season the team made the playoffs by winning their division with a 9-7 record, beating out the 8-8 Indianapolis Colts by a game. Then came the playoffs, which the team would like to forget.
The Kansas City Chiefs put a 30-0 hurting on the team from Houston. Everything that could have gone wrong for the Texans that night did. But 2016/2017 brings a new season and a fresh start for the Texans. They brought in Brock Osweiler to be their franchise quarterback, and Lamar Miller to be their feature running back.
On the negative side, the team’s defensive star JJ Watt underwent surgery on a herniated disk in his back a few weeks back. Watt is a virtual lock to miss all of the training camp, and his availability for the teams’ opener against the Chicago Bears is very much in question. The other major question surrounding the team had been the status of star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who held out from camp because of a contract dispute. After one day, Hopkins decided it was not worth it, and reported to camp.
So when all is said and done, what can we expect from the new-look Texans? Let us take a trip down bold prediction lane and find out.
Brock Osweiler will be a complete bust
Brock Osweiler was the team’s solution to the quarterback carousel that was last season. The team handed Osweiler a four-year deal worth $72 million dollars. That is a fairly large investment for a guy who has only played in 25 games over the course of four years in the NFL.
Now Osweiler played in eight games last season. He threw for 1967 yards with 170 completions and 10 touchdowns. He did also throw six interceptions. When all was said and done, he went 5-2 as a starter for the Denver Broncos. But just because he finished with a winning record, it does not mean he is worth a big time contract.
As most people know, the defense carried that team to a Super Bowl. So finishing with a winning record is not a reflection of the offense, but Von Miller and the insanely impressive defense that dominated all season long.
Now you throw Osweiler into the starting role in Houston, and all eyes will be on him. And fans are going to be expecting results given the contract he received. But the fact of the matter is, Osweiler was not overly impressive if you watched him last season. His 61.8 completion percentage ranked 22nd among NFL quarterbacks last year.
A more telling statistic, however, would be his touchdown to interception ratio. Osweiler’s ratio was a paltry 1.7, which ranked 30th among NFL quarterbacks. Three of Houston’s mediocre quarterbacks from a season ago ranked higher than Osweiler in this category. You can’t put expect success when you are throwing interceptions almost as much as you are touchdowns.
Now place him behind the average offensive line of the Texans. Given he is an average quarterback at best, he would greatly benefit if he was behind a solid offensive line. But the Texans’ line is nothing special, and will not do much to help the young quarterback. So when all is said and done, look for the Texans’ new quarterback to struggle, and struggle mightily.
DeAndre Hopkins will not surpass 1000 receiving yards
DeAndre Hopkins has cemented himself as the top receiving threat for the Texans over the last few seasons. The fourth-year player out of Clemson had a career year last season, hauling in 111 catches for 1521 yards and 11 touchdowns. All of this came despite the terrible quarterback situation that saw names like TJ Yates, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer taking snaps. He has been on a steady rise over the course of his career, with his numbers rising across the board every season.
So now that he has established himself, the team has signed their quarterback, things should only continue in the right direction correct? Well not so fast. As I established above, I feel Brock Osweiler is going to be a total bust for the club. Now sure, last year was a total mess, and he still had success. But those quarterbacks knew Hopkins was essentially their only reliable threat to move the ball, so they fed him left and right.
Now this year, the team has a little more depth. Jalen Strong was an inconsistent rookie last year. This year, he should be a bit more reliable given he will have an entire year under his belt plus a second training camp. He has the talent, and could emerge as a second threat for the team. Then add in first rounder Will Fuller, who the team is expecting big things from. He can take the top off the defense and will be taking some of those big-play targets. Cecil Shorts and Braxton Miller could also serve as decent options who could take some looks. Finally the team added Lamar Miller, a pass catching back into the mix, who could emerge as a safety option for Osweiler.
Now these factors alone may not be enough to take away 500 yards from Hopkins, but there are a ton of variables that go into an NFL season. Hopkins has never missed a game in his career, which means it may be bound to happen as it does to almost every NFL player at some point. He is still unhappy with his contract, so could that issue reemerge during the season and effect his play? The bottom line is, at the end of the day, I see this being a disappointing season for the Texans top wide out.
The JJ Watt injury will not hurt the defense as much as you would expect
JJ Watt is the heart of the Texans defense. But thanks to surgery for a herniated disk, his season debut is in question. He may or may not be ready to play week one. If he is not, who knows how long he could remain out. A back injury can be a tricky thing to deal with. So Texans fans should not expect him to come back for the start of the season, and can be pleasantly surprised if he does. But that is just fine, as the defense will be the rock of the team even when he is not on the field.
Whitney Mercilus is another defensive star, and will be able to shoulder the load while Watt is out. On any other defense he would likely be the star player. Brian Cushing brings that tough attitude that any successful defense needs. The secondary is being held down by the likes of Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph. We have yet to see the best out of Jadeveon Clowney and we may never, but his raw skills are still tremendous. Maybe the former first overall pick finally steps up his game with the star out.
Romeo Crennel knows his stuff and is a tremendous defensive coordinator. There are plenty of play-makers at his disposal even without Watt. Add in the fact that the teams first four games come against teams that are not going to light up the scoreboard. At the end of the day, Watt’s absence should not be a major factor for the team.
The team will finish under .500 and miss the playoffs
As the defending champs of the division who return much of the same defense and a new look offense, big things are expected. But slow down, because the team will not be returning to the playoffs. While I like the defense, the depth is not the best, and any more big time injuries could severely hurt them. You know my thoughts on Osweiler, and I do not see him running a top level offense. So I expect much of the same as last season, which was an average team who made the playoffs because of a weak division.
Now the Tennessee Titans are not great, but they will be improved. The Indianapolis Colts are a bit of a mystery until Andrew Luck shows he is healthy. Plus he cannot do it alone, and the team does still have holes. The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the rise and will be a true threat this year. So while the division as a whole is still average at best, there is some potential across the board. As a result, the Texans will go 7-9 and miss out on the playoffs.
The Texans will have to go up against the likes of the Green Bay Packers, the Denver Broncos, the Minnesota Vikings, the New England Patriots (without Tom Brady) and the Cincinnati Bengals. Add in surprise teams like the Oakland Raiders, the Jaguars (twice) and there are plenty of games where the team could be looking at an L, not a W.
So do not go into the season with expectations of this year being a cakewalk Texans fans. This is not going to be an easy season, and the team could very easily end up below the .500 mark. And I do not expect them to be making another trip to the postseason.
So there you have it. The Texans may enter the season as the AFC South champions, but they will end the season a disappointment. Their big free agent addition will fail to live up to the contract he was given, and the offense will suffer as a result. While the defense will still be solid, it will have enough flaws that it will not be able to overcome the poor offense. And when all is said and done, the team will find itself on the outside looking in.