Don't get me wrong, I've never been more excited about the Texans. For the first time, it's not ridiculous to put Texans and Super Bowl in the same sentence. However, I view us as contenders, not odds on favorites. It's far from a sure thing that the Texans will even get to the Super Bowl, let alone win it.
Two ConcernsOne obvious concern is the right side of the offensive line. Both the guard, Antoine Caldwell, and the tackle, Derek Newton, are new. Derek Newton is a second year player who
has never started an NFL regular season game. That's a concern. Equally important, is the impact of this change on chemistry.
Last year, the Texans' offensive line was arguably the best in the NFL. One significant reason for that excellence was the fact that the line had been together for years; it takes time to build chemistry. Even if the new linemen are as talented as the players they replaced, I think it will take more time than most fans expect for the line to get back to its previous level of excellence.
Don't forget that while for my money Arian Foster is the best back in the league, a key reason he led the league in rushing in 2010 was because he was running behind the best offensive line in the league. Thus, the running game is likely to suffer somewhat.
Concern number two is rushing defense -- especially between the tackles. It was one of my concerns last year, but few teams were really able to exploit it. If anything, with the departure of Demeco Ryans, and Daryl Sharpton's injury, we're weaker inside this year than last. The success that the 49ers and Saints had running the ball during the preseason reinforced this concern.
The Wild Card: InjuriesInjuries are always a concern. To a large extent, winning the Super Bowl is a crapshoot. So much depends on avoiding key injuries, and peaking at the right time. And, while the Texans' depth is infinitely better than it was just a few years ago, there are still some scary spots.
We saw last year what happened when we had to replace Andre Johnson with Jacoby Jones, and Matt Schaub with T.J. Yates. Losing either of those players this year would still be difficult to overcome -- though not as difficult as last year. In addition, even with our better depth there is still a huge drop-off if, for example, Jonathan Joseph goes out, or Brian Cushing. Losing J.J. Watt, or Duane Brown, or Chris Myers would hurt less, but would not be pretty. Multiple injuries in the same area -- e.g., on the offensive line -- would also be problematical.
Tough ScheduleMy final concern is the schedule. The Broncos, Packers, Ravens, Bears, Lions and Patriots are all considered Super Bowl contenders. While I certainly expect the Texans to win the division, I expect they'll end up 10-6, 11-5 at best -- probably not good enough to win home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Texans are healthy, I think we can beat anybody when playing at Reliant Stadium. However, I'm not sure this team is ready to beat, e.g., the Patriots in New England in an AFC championship game.
What The Texans Have That The Others Don't HaveStill, the Texans do have one thing that virtually no other major contender seems to have -- balance. If we go all the way to the Super Bowl, and especially if we win, it will be because of that balance. As Coach Kubiak says, he wants to be able to win three ways, with offense, with defense, or with special teams. This team can do that. Not only that, on offense, it can win running and it can win passing.
In short, I'm expecting an exciting year, with the Texans falling just short in the AFC Championship game. I hope I'm wrong.
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