The Houston Texans are a team that is always billed as an up-and-comer, yet they always seem to fall short of expectations. Houston has plenty of talent on both sides of the football, but we’re still waiting on this team to put together a real playoff run. The Texans have never advanced beyond the Divisional Round of the playoffs, and they’ve been in the league for almost 20 years now. At some point, you have to wonder whether they’ll ever get over the hump.
Houston managed to win the AFC South last season despite a disastrous 0-3 start that included a loss at home to the miserable New York Giants. The Texans looked dead in the water at that point, but Deshaun Watson and company caught fire after that. Houston earned a 37-34 overtime win in Indianapolis in Week 4, and they didn’t look back after that. The team won nine straight games following their Week 3 loss to the Giants, and they wound up cruising to a division title.
However, they once again fell flat in the playoffs, as they let the Colts march into NRG Stadium and pick up a dominant 21-7 win in the Wild Card Round. The Texans’ offense could do nothing against Indianapolis’ defense all afternoon, and Texans fans were once again left disappointed. The team is once again among the NFL betting sites favorites to win the division in 2019, but the AFC South is shaping up to be one of the more competitive divisions in all of football this year.
The primary objective of the Texans’ front office this offseason should have been to find a way to protect Watson. The former Clemson quarterback faced nonstop pressure last season, and the offensive line allowed an NFL-high 62 sacks and 126 quarterback hits. Considering Watson isn’t the most physically stout QB in the world, keeping him upright is probably a smart strategy if Houston is serious about contending in the near future.
The Texans had three picks in the first two rounds of April’s draft, and they used two of those selections on offensive linemen. The Texans took Tytus Howard with their first-round pick out of Alabama State. He was hardly a household name at the time, and some believe Houston reached on him. He caught the eye of Texans GM Brian Gaine, though, so the Texans took him. Houston then nabbed tackle Max Scharping with the 55th overall pick out of Northern Illinois.
Both players are expected to compete for starting spots along the O-line as rookies. The fact that Gaine has since been fired by the team makes you wonder whether those were smart draft picks, but time will tell. Houston signed former first-round pick Matt Kalil in free agency as well. Kalil has been something of a disappointment since being taken third overall by the Vikings in 2012, but the Texans are optimistic that another change of scenery will help.
Houston lost Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu in free agency, but they signed veterans Tashaun Gipson and Bradley Roby to fill the gaps. Roby has struggled in recent years, but he did show signs as a key part of the Super Bowl-winning Broncos defense from a few seasons ago. Gipson was Houston’s marquee free agent acquisition after coming over from Jacksonville. He has intercepted 20 passes with 394 tackles over the course of his seven NFL seasons with the Jags and Browns.
Houston cut D’Onta Foreman in training camp, but a few days later, they managed to acquire disgruntled running back Duke Johnson from Cleveland. Lamar Miller is entrenched as the starter, but Johnson gives the Texans better depth in the backfield than they had previously.
|Points per Game||Passing Yards per Game||Rushing Yards per Game|
|25.1 (11th)||236.3 (17th)||126.3 (8th)|
|Points Allowed per Game||Passing Yards Allowed per Game||Rushing Yards Allowed per Game|
|19.8 (4th)||260.4 (28th)||82.7 (3rd)|
|1||Mon, Sep. 9||at New Orleans Saints||7:10pm||ESPN|
|2||Sun, Sep. 15||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00pm||CBS|
|3||Sun, Sep. 22||at Los Angeles Chargers||4:25pm||CBS|
|4||Sun, Sep. 29||vs. Carolina Panthers||1:00pm||FOX|
|5||Sun, Oct. 6||vs. Atlanta Falcons||1:00pm||FOX|
|6||Sun, Oct. 13||at Kansas City Chiefs||1:00pm||CBS|
|7||Sun, Oct. 20||at Indianapolis Colts||1:00pm||CBS|
|8||Sun, Oct. 27||vs. Oakland Raiders||1:00pm||CBS|
|9||Sun, Nov. 3||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars||9:30am||NFL Net.|
|11||Sun, Nov. 17||at Baltimore Ravens||1:00pm||CBS|
|12||Thu, Nov. 21||vs. Indianapolis Colts||8:20pm||FOX/NFL Net.|
|13||Sun, Dec. 1||vs. New England Patriots||8:20pm||NBC|
|14||Sun, Dec. 8||vs. Denver Broncos||1:00pm||CBS|
|15||Sun, Dec. 15||at Tennessee Titans||1:00pm||CBS|
|16||Sun, Dec. 22||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||TBD||CBS|
|17||Sun, Dec. 29||Vs. Tennessee Titans||1:00pm||CBS|
On paper, the Texans have an incredibly difficult schedule. Three of the Houston Texans’ first five games of the season will come against the 3 best teams in the NFC South, which may be the best division in football. Kicking things off with a Monday night road date in New Orleans is just about the last way any team could want to begin their season. Few teams in recent years have enjoyed their trips to the Superdome.
Houston’s “easiest” game in the early part of the season is their Week 2 clash at home against the Jaguars. The Jags won just five games last season, but they figure to be improved this time around after adding Nick Foles during the offseason. If nothing else, Jacksonville finally has a halfway competent quarterback. When you combine that with a stout defense and the fact that this is a divisional game, it’s far from an automatic win for the Houston Texans.
Following the Jacksonville game, the Texans get five straight matchups against potential playoff teams, with three of those games coming on the road. The first game on the schedule that looks like a surefire win comes in Week 8 when the Raiders visit. After that, the Texans head across the pond to face the Jaguars again in London before the bye. After the off week, Houston gets three straight games against playoff teams from last season (Baltimore, Indianapolis, New England). The schedule eases up after that, but they do still have two divisional games with the Titans looming in the season’s final three weeks.
The Texans will be up against it if they want to repeat as AFC South champions. Many expect Watson to continue to improve in Year 3, and with good reason. He is arguably on track to be the greatest quarterback the team has ever had. That’s a low hurdle, but the Texans will literally go as far as Watson can drag them. If he gets hurt, the team’s chances hinge on the likes of A.J. McCarron. So, obviously, keeping Watson healthy is of the utmost importance.
Watson quietly topped 4,000 yards passing last season to go along with 26 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions. The picks were huge considering he had thrown eight in just seven games as a rookie, and his decision-making made a noteworthy leap in his second season. He will still hold onto the football too long at times, which definitely increases his chances of taking hits and getting sacked. Still, he rushed for another 551 yards with five more scores, and his prowess running the ball is a major asset. As long as DeAndre Hopkins can keep doing his thing and if Will Fuller can finally stay healthy, a HUGE “if,” then Texans’ offense should be fine.
The defense was among the league’s best last season. They were incredibly stout against the run, but they did have a weakness in terms of defending the pass. The team is optimistic that the addition of Gipson, in particular, will help solve that problem, but the Texans also have a decision to make on Jadeveon Clowney. The former No. 1 overall pick was slapped with the franchise tag this offseason, but he is currently in the midst of a holdout as he seeks a new contract. The Texans have reportedly looked at trade options, so we’ll see how this situation plays out.
Regardless, Houston should have one of the best pass rushes in the game again this season, especially if J.J. Watt stays healthy. He did so in 2018, and he quickly reminded people why he’s one of the best defensive players in the history of the game. Watt had 16 sacks with 7 forced fumbles a season ago. If he can stay on the field, this defense looks downright fearsome.
The Texans won 11 games last season, but the NFL betting sites think they’ll struggle to repeat that showing in 2019:
*Odds via MyBookie.ag
A daunting schedule mixed with injury question marks surrounding a number of key players have the Texans’ win prop down at just 8 ½ heading into the new campaign. Oddsmakers are much more optimistic regarding the Colts’ chances of reclaiming the division (over/under 9 ½ wins), which will potentially leave Houston on the fringes of the AFC’s playoff picture.
While I think the Houston Texans definitely have far more talent than your standard 8-9 win team, it’s hard to argue with this total. Facing the NFC South and AFC West in out-of-division play is a difficult task, and none of Houston’s six divisional games looks like a cakewalk either. Add in the Patriots and Ravens as first-place games, and you have one of the more imposing schedules in football.
As much as I would like to take the value on the Texans hitting the over at +105, the under looks like the play here. It’s just tough to see where 9 wins are going to come from. Even if the Texans split their AFC South schedule, they would still have to come up with 6 more wins against the Saints, Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Chargers, Raiders, Broncos, Chiefs, Ravens, and Patriots. Oakland, Denver, and Tampa Bay aren’t the most daunting opponents, but it’s fair to assume Houston will be a betting underdog in plenty of those contests.
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