Football is king in the state of Texas. As someone who grew up in the Lone Star State, I can attest to this. When it comes to sports, football is everything. Sure, Texas also has successful franchises like the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Astros, but everything else pales in comparison to football down south. It’s just the way it is.
The 2018 NFL season is only one week old, but there’s a good chance you didn’t enjoy your Sunday if you happen to be a fan of one of the two Texas NFL franchises, the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans. The Cowboys were beaten rather easily in a sloppy affair by the Carolina Panthers, while the Texans fell on the road against the defending AFC champion New England Patriots.
Neither team got absolutely blown out, and there is little shame in dropping road games at Carolina and New England. The Panthers and Patriots were playoff teams last season, and both are expected to be contenders this season. That said, there are also many out there suggesting that the Texans are a legitimate Super Bowl threat, while the Cowboys should be the chief competition for the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles. Based on each team’s season-opening performance, they have a long way to go before we can say either of them is the real deal.
Should Cowboys and Texans fans panic? Or was Week 1 just a blip on the radar for the NFL’s Lone Star State representatives?
Will the Texans Make the Playoffs?
- Yes -135
- No +250
Again, lots of teams go into Foxborough and come away with a loss. In fact, just about everybody does. The Patriots have been a dynasty for nearly the last 2 decades, and they haven’t shown many signs of slowing down. The fact that the Texans went in there and struggled wasn’t a surprise.
However, there are some real concerns with this team. The Texans were already thin along the offensive line, and that was before it was announced Monday that starting tackle Seantrel Henderson will miss the remainder of the season with an ankle injury. Henderson was brought in as a free agent to help stabilize the line, yet the Texans are now left scrambling after just one game.
Without a great line in front of him, it’s going to make things difficult for second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson, who missed the second half of last season after tearing his ACL, looked downright rusty against New England. He completed just 17 of his 34 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was also sacked 3 times on the day and lost a fumble. All in all, it was a rough day at the office for the youngster.
Fortunately for Houston, their schedule gets quite a bit lighter in the weeks ahead. The Texans will follow the Patriots loss with a trip to Nashville to take on the rival Titans next week, with their games immediately after that being vs. New York Giants, at Indianapolis, vs. Dallas, vs. Buffalo, at Jacksonville and vs. Miami. The only teams with legitimate playoff aspirations during this stretch are the Cowboys (more on that later) and the Jaguars. The Bills made it last season, but we saw in Week 1 that a return trip to the postseason is looking highly unlikely.
Oddsmakers certainly aren’t freaking out over the Texans’ problematic performance against the Patriots. Most still seem to believe the AFC South will come down to Houston or Jacksonville. Indy and Tennessee shouldn’t be counted out by any means, but you have to believe Watson will find his footing as the season progresses. We saw during his limited healthy stint last year what kind of plays he’s capable of making, but the Pats were able to get him out of his comfort zone.
I also think one game is not nearly enough of a sample size to make snap judgments like this. The Texans looked a little better in the second half against New England, and the defense put forth a decent showing for the most part. If their key cogs are able to stay healthy, Houston should at least be fighting for an AFC Wild Card. I think it’s too early to write off the Texans to make the playoffs when betting sites still have them at -135.
Will the Cowboys Make the Playoffs?
- Yes +150
- No -200
Of the two Texas teams, the Cowboys were the ones to put forth the more dismal effort on Sunday. Dak Prescott finished 19-for-29 for 170 yards without a touchdown or an interception. The offensive line, which is facing injury problems, also allowed Prescott to get sacked a whopping 6 times by the Panthers’ defense. He also lost a fumble along the way for the lone Cowboys turnover of the game.
It was also a quiet afternoon for Ezekiel Elliott, who mustered just 69 yards rushing on 15 attempts. He did find the end zone for the lone Dallas score of the game, but that was essentially the lone offensive highlight for them. There were plenty of question marks coming into the season, so the offense sputtering in a tough matchup wasn’t a huge surprise. Dallas parted ways with both Dez Bryant and Jason Witten during the offseason and they were replaced by new faces like Tavon Austin, Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns.
It was always going to take Prescott some time to get used to his new teammates. For the Cowboys, it’s just a matter of how long it ultimately takes the quarterback to develop a rapport with his newest teammates. This offense was always going to be a work in progress, especially with the team’s starting center, Travis Frederick, sidelined indefinitely.
As weird as it is to day, the Cowboys may go as far as the defense can take them. Dallas hasn’t been known for having a strong defense in recent years, but at this point it actually looks like the strength of the team.
The Cowboys also have the disadvantage of playing in the NFC, which is the far superior conference at this point. Their schedule doesn’t get much easier after this, either. From here, they’ll host the New York Giants in their home opener on Sunday Night Football. The Giants aren’t a great team, but it’s a rivalry game and they always seem to give the Cowboys trouble. After that, Dallas will take on the Seahawks, Lions, Texans, Jaguars, Redskins, Titans and Eagles. Obviously, all of those teams are potential playoff squads.
I’m more bearish on the Cowboys than I am the Texans. The quality of competition is more watered-down in the AFC than in the NFC. Houston’s division is fairly difficult, but there are just fewer question marks at this point with Houston than with Dallas.
Will Either Coach Be the First to Get Fired in 2018?
- Bill O’Brien to be Fired First +2000
- Jason Garrett to be Fired First +3300
Jason Garrett has been the Cowboys’ head coach since 2010. While he does have a winning record in that span, the team has found very little success in the playoffs. Garrett has a record of just 1-2 in the postseason despite the fact that his teams have finished with the No. 1 seed in the conference twice. The Cowboys, America’s Team, haven’t won a Super Bowl in over 20 years.
The Texans aren’t as prestigious a franchise, but they have still built a respectable roster with big aspirations. O’Brien has a record of 31-34 in the regular season since becoming Houston’s head coach in 2014, and he has also gone 1-2 in postseason play. The Texans last made the playoffs 2 years ago when they beat the Oakland Raiders in the Wild Card round, only to lose to the Patriots in the divisional round.
Unless their teams go on some extended losing streak to start the season, it’s hard to imagine either Garrett or O’Brien being the first coach fired in the league this season. That said, it’s fair to say that the fan bases for both clubs are quite fed up at the moment. I’d say the seat has to be hotter for Garrett considering he’s been on the job for nearly a decade and the Cowboys are one of the NFL’s most prestigious franchises. They have had more than enough talent over the years, but the results have continued to elude them.
Essentially nothing has changed with the franchise during Garrett’s tenure. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was so frustrated with the team’s opening week performance that he even left the locker room afterward without bothering to speak to the media. One game in and things already may be boiling over.
Of the two head coaches that call Texas home, I like the value you can get on Garrett to be the first coach fired at +3300. Texans owner Bob McNair has been notably conservative when it comes to making changes. Jerry Jones in Dallas has to be getting frustrated with his team running on the treadmill of mediocrity, so I think he is the more likely owner to make the move. Give me Garrett at +3300 here.