NFL

Teams Likely to Fall in ’16: Houston Texans

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In the NFL playoffs, you expect to see the 12 best teams battle it out for a chance to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy in early February.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, as we saw with the Houston Texans this past postseason.

Bill O’Brien’s ball club benefitted greatly from being in the horrid AFC South division. Before the season, the Indianapolis Colts were the clear-cut favorite to win the division, but with Andrew Luck not being healthy for majority of the year, it allowed Houston to slide through the backdoor.

The other three division winners in the AFC all won 12 games a piece (Patriots, Broncos and Bengals).

To Houston’s credit, after starting the season (2-5), they displayed great willpower by finishing the campaign (7-2).

“We hung in there,” O’Brien stated. “One thing you learn is you can’t get in that type of hole again. But if things do go wrong, I think we have a mentally tough core group of leaders in our locker room that really helped us through those things.”

In order for them to repeat as division champs, they can’t afford to stumble out the gate again. They’ll be meeting up for offseason conditioning on April 18.

“These are the steps we need to take to get better every day to make sure we start the season on the right note,” O’Brien stressed. “That we’re hitting our stride there at the end of training camp, ready to go when September rolls around, and then we go from there.”

Houston’s turnaround resonated because of their defense. Following their 44-26 beatdown at the hands of the Miami Dolphins, the Texans instantly became one of the most feared defensive units in the league. Of course they were led by none other than J.J. Watt, who totaled 17.5 sacks to go along with 76 tackles.

Heading into the 2016 season, there’s no reason to believe Houston’s defense won’t be amongst one of the best in the league, as their core is set to return.

With that being said, there are tons of questions marks on the other side of the ball. Houston ranked near the bottom in points per game (21.2), tying the Atlanta Falcons for 21st.

In their playoff matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, Houston failed to score as they were trounced to the tune of 30-0. Quarterback Brian Hoyer only threw for 136 yards to go along with four interceptions.

Yes, four, along with a fumble.

In an attempt to solve their problems under center, Houston decided to risk it all by signing Brock Osweiler to a four-year deal worth $72 million, with $37 million being guaranteed in the first two years.

Osweiler stands at 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, possessing all of the physical tools you could ask for in a quarterback. Nonetheless, we haven’t seen enough of the Arizona State product to really know what to expect this upcoming season.

While it’s great to be physically gifted for a quarterback, most of the game is about the mental aspect, which is why O’Brien wishes he could be working with his quarterback now.

“Why can’t at least the quarterbacks come back a little bit early so we can start teaching them?” O’Brien asked. “That’s just my thing. I feel pretty strongly about that the players, I believe, the players of the Houston Texans, they would like to work with us a little bit more than what we’re doing right now.”

On the bright side for Texans fans, it’ll take a sensational effort for Osweiler to be as bad as Hoyer, but for them to compete in the AFC South again, they’ll need Osweiler to be a competent signal caller at the very least.

Colts head coach Chuck Pagano believes the division is heading in the right direction.

“Everybody is getting better,” Pagano admitted. “Jacksonville got better, a couple of huge acquisitions there, with Jackson going there on defense. And Osweiler and Miller going to the Texans. Tennessee has made some big acquisitions with Murray … and some others.

“So everybody has gotten better. And look at the quarterback position in the AFC South. Everybody has a guy who can throw the football and give you a chance to win the division and make the playoffs.”

In a league that’s quarterback driven, Houston is behind the eight ball within their own division when you have the likes of Andrew Luck, Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota.

The odds of them repeating as a playoff team look tenuous at best.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.