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Fresh off a season of playoff firsts, the Houston Texans are looking to make 2011′s breakout year pale in comparison to 2012.
The team has many reasons to believe they can do just that. Offensively, the team is stacked. Running back Arian Foster is considered by many to be the best all around back in the NFL. At over 1800 all purpose yards and even ranking second last year in receptions on the team, Foster has earned that reputation. His back up, Ben Tate, almost had a 1,000 yard season on less than 200 carries. That, simply put, is ridiculous, and was good for the second best rushing attack in the league last year.
The passing game, while thin and injury prone, will make or break the offense (and perhaps the team) this year. Quarterback Matt Schaub is entering that last year of his contract, and while he was hurt last year, did post a rather impressive 96.8 QB rating when he did play. His heath, more than any other factor, might be the hinge on which the team’s door o’ fate swings. Star receiver Andre Johnson did have the worst year of his career last year, only appearing in seven games in an injury shortened season, but he is only a year removed from three straight 1,000+ yards receiving years, and if he can stay on the field he perhaps could approach 85% of that production this year.
Houston’s second-ranked defense didn’t just do well last year. They were spectacular. The Texans were third against the pass, fourth against the run and sixth in sacks. Last season’s defense gave up fewer than 300 yards per game and had 44 sacks. That’s doesn’t even sound like a historical Houston D does it? Connor Barwin, J.J. Watt, and Brooks Reed all emerged as stellar young defenders that could each get numerous sacks this season. Yes, the team has lost stalwarts like Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans, but with the way the team played last year, and with the amazing work of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and secondary stabilization additions like Danieal Manning and Johnathan Joseph , another year should produce even better chemistry and familiarity.
Playmaker Season Prediction: 11-5
It may be hard to take down Green Bay, New England, and Baltimore in the same regular season, and throw in a seemingly random (remember that debacle of a game against Oakland last year?) loss or two against opponents like Denver, Chicago, and perhaps Detroit and you get close to a 11-5 or 12-4 record. That still shapes up to be the best record ever in franchise history, and perhaps even good enough for a first round playoff bye. These guys are that good and they benefit greatly from playing teams like Jacksonville and Indianapolis twice.
Even with a favorable schedule, it’s always hard to make that next level leap, especially when you achieved franchise milestones last season in making the playoffs and winning a playoff game. If the team can stay healthy at key positions (quarterback, receiver, etc.) and that’s a big if, an AFC Championship is really not out of the question.
This team has almost everything you’d want in an AFC Champion; the ability to run the ball, stop the run and the pass, and control games by grinding it out. You even have very good to great quarterback and receiving talent, but combine injury concerns with a lack of depth at wide receiver behind Andre Johnson, and you have really the only blemish against a possibly great team.
Bottom line? If Schaub and Johnson stay on the field and the team can take that next leap and defeat foes like Green Bay and New England, watch out Houston, you may have something special on your hands. If the defense regresses though, and injuries take their toll, it’s merely an 8-8 or 9-7 squad; perhaps good enough to sneak into the playoffs in a somewhat weak AFC South, but nothing more. It is the time for proving worth and work, and the Texans have a golden opportunity to do that this season.
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