It is finally here.
The 2014 Houston Texans season is just 48 hours away from squaring off against
Washington on Sunday at 12 p.m. CT. Both teams are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2013 campaigns, and will meet at NRG Stadium in hopes of getting off to a good start in 2014.
The start of the season always brings with it the feeling of hope. Everyone (well, except for Green Bay) is undefeated, and every team in the league envisions the best case scenario for what will happen on the field.
Here in Houston, the excitement comes from change. A new coaching staff takes over, with head coach Bill O'Brien installing a new scheme and philosophy for the organization. What will 2014 bring? No one really knows.
That said, lack of information has never stopped anyone (especially media members) from making completely random guesses (they call them predictions) for what will take place.
Why should we be any different? My six predictions for the 2014 Texans seasons are below.
1. The Texans will start the season 3-1
Analysts (and some coaches) often look at the season in 'quarters', meaning they divide the
year into sections of four games. For the Texans, the first four games of the season represent a great opportunity to have early success. After opening at home against Washington, the Texans will face Oakland, New York and Buffalo.
The combined 2013 records for those teams? 20-44. I predict the Texans will take advantage, going 3-1 in those contests. If I'm right, that means Houston will pick up more wins (3) in the first four games then they did in the entire 2013 season (2). That would be a positive to the O'Brien era.
2. Whitney Mercilus will get 10 sacks
Last year, the Carolina Panthers led the NFL in sacks, taking down quarterbacks 60 times. Let's
assume the Texans reach the 50 sack mark this season. Take out 15 for J.J. Watt (at the low end) and 10 for Jadeveon Clowney. That leaves 25 sacks to fill. Well...I think Whitney Mercilus will get 10 of those.
But Eric, you say, he isn't even starting.
True, but Mercilus' responsibilities will be simple when he is on the field: Get to the quarterback. A reminder, Mercilus did have seven sacks in 2013. Plus, you know that whenever he is on the field, he'll get single coverage. So much attention will be paid to Watt and Clowney that Mercilus will get every opportunity to go one-on-one.
Preseason isn't the end all be all, but Mercilus really showed flashes in the final two games against Denver and San Francisco. In the 49ers game, Mercilus had a three-play stretch that fans in Houston have been dying to see. He pressured the quarterback and then picked up a sack and a tackle for loss on consecutive plays. He was in the backfield in the blink of an eye. If he shows that ability, 10 sacks are possible.
3. DeAndre Hopkins will lead the team in TD catches
Hopkins has huge hands...that has been said ad nauseam. He also is a fantastic leaper, and
has dominated at times during training camp. He also is becoming a master at the increasing popular back shoulder throw, making quick adjustments while the ball is in flight to snatch it away from defenders. Remember that game winning catch against Tennessee last year (if not, the video is to the right), that's exactly what I mean.
Add all that up and Hopkins becomes one of the team's most dangerous red zone threats. That can make him a favorite target for new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Expect Arian Foster (or the running backs in general) to gobble up a majority of the touchdowns, but if we throw, I expect Hopkins to be a high priority.
4. Jay Prosch will become a fan favorite
Prosch, the team's lone fullback on the roster, keeps it simple on field. He comes in, he blocks
and he runs back to the sideline. Not to mention he does this with his arm wrapped in a HUGE blue cast. It's like he's carrying around a billy club.
Auburn fans will tell you, Prosch isn't afraid to do the dirty work. He works hard, is very humble, has a touching past and is easy to root for. Plus his name rhymes with BOSS (sort of). What more do you need?
5. Texans practice squad will pay dividends on the field
10-players were recently signed to the Texans practice squad, several of which made great impressions with the coaching staff during training camp and the preseason. The Texans aren't
incredibly deep, so when injuries do happen (it's the NFL), expect the organization to look to that group to fill in.
Players like Travis Labhart, EZ Nwachukwu, Max Bullough and Anthony Denham could all see action this year, perhaps playing big roles at some point during the year. By the time the Texans 2014 campaign comes to close, I expect one of those 10 to make an impact on the squad.
6. Randy Bullock will make 90 percent of his FG attempts
Bullock was an easy target during the early part of last season, as he struggled to convert Texans drives into points. That said, he did make 26 field goals, tying Kris Brown (2005) for
the fifth-highest single-season total in franchise history. He also smashed home 12 consecutive field goals to finish the season, tying Neil Rackers (2010) for the fifth-longest streak in franchise history.
While 90 percent may seem high, if Bullock were to reach that number it would put him in the top 15 in the league. With the way his finished the season, I think that is entirely possible.