After the 2017 NFL Draft, many fingers were pointing towards the Jacksonville Jaguars to make major strides in the AFC. I can get the wide-eyed speculation as the Jags picked up Leonard Fournette, however, their season still rides on the shoulders of Blake Bortles. But the team that has flown under-the-radar post-Draft are the Houston Texans. And that suits them just fine.
In 2016 the AFC South was looked upon as a division that was heading in the right direction but each team had a few glaring holes to fill before they could make that leap into contender talk. The South was one of 4 divisions to put up 3 teams with non-losing records. The only team to actually make the division look bad was, well you guessed it– the Jacksonville Jaguars at 3-13.
While the celebration for the Texans was well deserved despite their issues, the team will head into the 2017-18 campaign with a fresh outlook. Out is the waste of a contract that was given to Brock Osweiler and in is Super Rookie, Deshaun Watson. Watson alone will put the Texans in first place in a division that hasn’t seen a talent like his in years. But that’s not all.
The Texans are one of the best defensive teams in the NFL and last season that damage was done without the services on J.J. Watt. Watt was injured in the 3rd game of the season and the defense was forced to rely on the oft-injured Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans managed to lead the NFL in yards allowed per game, the 2nd best in containing the pass, and 5th in TD’s allowed through the air. The defense is solid with Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Quintin Demps and Jonathan Joseph.
While the defense was pretty solid, it was the offense that almost let the team down.
9-7 doesn’t scream contender but when your prized Quarterback is playing like a High School freshman what are you expecting? The Texans were awful on offense last season with an average of 17 points per game. The good news is– Osweiler was shipped out and in his place in the NCAA phenom, Watson. The Watson and DeAndre Hopkins connection could be a thing of beauty if the offensive line can hold a block. Lamar Miller was a surprise for the Texans with 1073 yards in 14 games. With the passing game sure to be back on track this year, that will open the door for Miller to take advantage of a front 7 instead of having the line stacked due to the lack of respect for the arm of any Texans QB.
9-7 is all that pundits will see when picturing the Texans for 2017-18 However, with Clowney and Watt finally able to play together, the defense will be lights out. And you know the old saying that defense wins championships. If the offense can move the chains then why would anyone bet against the Texans giving the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots a run for their money in the AFC?
In 2016 the Texans took care of business in the AFC South with a 5-1 record. Why shouldn’t we expect the same? Their 2017-18 schedule will have them play 4 playoffs team from last year with the Patriots being the only real threat. The stage is set for the Texans to make a move in the AFC. Remember, no one saw the Raiders coming last year either.