It’s evident that, with health, the Texans are considered a contender in the AFC. With what they’ve added on defense they could even be better than two years ago, when they finished first in the NFL in total yards allowed. Marc Vandermeer
It's evident that, with health, the Texans are considered a contender in the AFC. With what they've added on defense they could even be better than two years ago, when they finished first in the NFL in total yards allowed.
And the offense reached out-of-this-world status for the last five games that Deshaun Watson was under center. It's not hard to imagine a highly productive attack that could vault the Texans deep into the playoffs, if things break right.
So let's take a look at how these expectations stack up to some past campaigns. The two off seasons with the most lofty projections happened prior to 2012 and 2013.
In some ways, the return of a QB who had his season cut short makes this feel similar to 2012. Matt Schaub was lost for the previous season after the 10th game, with the Texans holding a 7-3 record, good for the top spot in the entire AFC. The feeling was that a healthy Schaub could have gotten the Texans to the AFC Championship game and maybe into the Super Bowl.
His return, plus the emergence of J.J. Watt in the postseason, after the Texans finished 2nd in total defense, had a lot of pundits thinking that Houston had a chance to go the distance.
The expectations in 2013 were not as high. Mostly because of the way 2012 ended, with Houston losing three of four to end the regular season, when one more win would have gained homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. And we all remember how 2013 ultimately turned out after a 2-0 start.
With key players like Luck, Watson and Watt back on the field, there's the reality that the AFC South is the best it's been in a decade.
I know what you're thinking. 'Isn't this possibly the BEST version of the AFC South we've seen?'
It's certainly possible. But let me take you back to 2007. The Texans finished 8-8 for their first non-losing season. Yet that mini-milestone was only good for last in the AFC South. The Colts were 13-3. The Jags went 11-5 and beat Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh in the playoffs (sound familiar?). And Tennessee made the playoffs at 10-6 with Vince Young.
That was the only year in which the AFC South yielded three playoff teams. While that could happen this season, it seems unlikely you would get every team in the division to finish .500 or better.
If Andrew Luck is healthy, this will be one of the best quarterback groups the AFC South has seen. In 2003, the division produced Co-MVPs in Peyton Manning and the late Steve McNair. But the other two were David Carr and Byron Leftwich. The 2007 season had Manning, David Garrard, Vince Young and Schaub.
As Bill O'Brien often says, every year is different. This season will produce its own story. This can certainly be one of the best divisions in the game and in AFC South history. There will be no easy outs and the rest of the schedule is tougher than last year's records would indicate. Yet a healthy Texans team has a chance to go a long way in 2018.
Check out some of the top shots from the first day of Texans minicamp.