Could Houston Texans Make Playoffs Without J.J. Watt?
The J.J. Watt injury news has gone from bad to worse. Already rehabbing multiple injuries from the 2015 NFL season, the Houston Texans star sack artist is now in jeopardy of missing the start of the 2016 season due to a recent back surgery.
Initial reports suggested Watt could miss anywhere from 6-8 weeks, but the latest whispers have him out for the next 10 weeks.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 22, 2016
Watt reportedly underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back “recently” and is at risk of being placed on Houston’s Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Should Watt stay on that list to start the year, he would officially be off of the active roster through the Texans’ first six games.
There are two very scary pieces to the J.J. Watt puzzle now. First, there have been numerous reports on his status following back surgery and the return timelines are all different.
From 6-8 weeks to 8 weeks minimum to up to 10 weeks, J.J. Watt’s expected absence after back surgery isn’t clear https://t.co/wICJWsxpv4
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 22, 2016
Secondly, back surgeries in general can be tricky. The actual rehab from the surgery itself is said to be quick, but the rehab going into getting back to 100% – especially for a pro football player that operates exclusively on the line – can be rigorous.
There is speculation that Watt will storm back from this injury and make it back for week one. That would still rob him of training camp and any preseason appearances, but Houston would hypothetically get a healthy and effective Watt for the entire season.
The more likely scenario, should Watt not be a robot, is some hiccups arise during recovery and the far time table (10 weeks) prevents him from debuting with the rest of his teammates in week one.
Missing the first game of the year wouldn’t be crippling, nor would it guarantee Houston places Watt on the PUP list. However, every extra week that Watt is projected to or actually does miss puts him and the Texans in a bad spot.
Houston’s Outlook Without Watt
The big thing people need to focus on here is that as amazing as J.J. Watt is, he’s still human and back surgeries aren’t to be messed with. He’s going to need time to recover and then work his way back to the shape he’s used to being in to dominate on the line for the Texans.
The last thing Watt or Houston wants to do is rush back and either not be the same player – or worse – cause further damage to his back.
Because of that, it’s very likely the Texans are looking at being without their star defensive lineman for at least a couple of games to start the year. Some project 2-4 games and others think he’ll be on the PUP list and won’t return until mid-season.
None of that is great news, seeing as Watt has never missed a single game in his five-year NFL career. Even with Watt being an iron man, the Texans have still struggled throughout his tenure. They looked as good as ever in 2015, but they still were a mediocre team and got trounced in the first round of the playoffs.
Houston has made positive moves on the offensive side of the ball, but losing Watt for any amount of time could be a huge blow. That could especially be true inside a formerly weak AFC South division that appears to be improving quickly.
Needless to say, Houston is going to be a tough sell in weekly NFL picks for as long as Watt sits out. His 17.5 sacks last year are a testament to that, as is his ability to make some type of impact on nearly every single play.
The game to game hit isn’t the scary part, of course. Should Watt actually hit the PUP list, he could be off the active roster for half the season (or longer) and the Texans could have to find a way to make up for his absence. Naturally, that could dramatically impact their +190 odds to win their division, while their +3300 Super Bowl odds would also likely take a big hit.
There is obviously still optimism that Watt will make a full, speedy recovery and be ready for the start of the season. It just isn’t exactly likely and the Texans need to brace for the worst.
*Photo credit – Sgt. Alexander Martinez via Wiki Commons
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