Vandermeer's View: The winning formula
Last year the Texans reeled off a team-record nine-game winning streak on the way to their second-highest win total.
Bill O'Brien is absolutely right about every year being different. After all, almost half the position players who took the field in the playoffs have been changed out.
But there are some things that the Texans will certainly look to duplicate as they venture into 2019. Among them…
The Texans set a franchise record with a plus-13 turnover differential in 2018, best in the AFC and second in the league. They had their fewest turnovers ever and went seven games without a single hiccup. This was huge in building the win total.
Getting turnovers is one thing. Converting them into points is another. Houston was stellar in this department, scoring 111 points off takeaways, second to the NFC champion Rams. Chicago was third. All three teams made the postseason.
Special Teams Execution
Not only did Houston have the NFL's leading scorer in kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn, the Texans were also exemplary in pinning opponents deep. Opponents' average drive start position was the 25.5-yard line, good for the toughest (best) in the NFL. On offense, the Texans started at their 31.3-yard line, second in the league. This hidden yardage makes a big difference through the course of games and seasons.
When Bill O'Brien's teams have the edge at the half, they are 32-2, the best mark in the NFL over the last five years. That's why getting off to a good start is so imperative.
Third Down D
Over O'Brien's career, the Texans are second in the NFL in third down defense. Getting off the field clean and getting more shots for Deshaun Watson and the offense is key.
No Running, Please
The Texans were number one in the NFL in 2018 in yards allowed per rush. The Saints were number two. Sure, the defenses change, but this is a stat worth keeping an eye on Monday night.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 1/14/2019)