Can the Houston Texans Live Up to Sky-High Expectations in 2012?
If you think the Houston Texans are tempering expectations in 2012, just one year after the franchise's first ever trip the postseason, receiver Andre Johnson and quarterback Matt Schaub certainly have a different view of the team's upcoming season.
It's Super Bowl or bust for this team, according to both Johnson and Schaub.
That's how I feel about it. That's the only reason you play the game. I mean, that's the only reason I play it. You can make the playoffs, go to the AFC championship, (but) if you lose, you're still getting the same thing the guys who didn't make the playoffs got. The ultimate goal is winning the Super Bowl. That's it.
And Schaub, from Breer's same story:
I think it is. Given where we went last year, the next step is the Super Bowl. We can't win it here in August or September; it's a slow progression. We have to take one at a time, as the cliché goes. But ultimately, we wanna get to that final game in February. That's our goal, and we're not gonna rest until that happens.
The Texans finished with a 10-6 record in 2011, earning the first playoff game in the franchise's history in the process. Houston won their AFC Wild Card matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals but got bounced one week later in Baltimore.
Still, very few national pundits will claim the Texans are not Super Bowl contenders in 2012.
Barring injury, it's hard to see this team not at least approaching the goals they've set for themselves this season.
Few teams in the NFL can claim to be "complete," but the Texans are certainly one of them. This team is well-positioned on both sides of the football.
Schaub gives Houston a more-than-capable player at the game's most important position. He has once led the NFL in passing yards (2009), and over the last three years, Schaub has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 68:43. Each of the last four years has seen Schaub finish with a passer rating over 90, too.
The only worry is health, as Schaub missed the final seven weeks of the regular season and two playoff games after suffering a fracture in his plant foot last season. If he's healthy, the Texans could certainly argue that they have a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback.
The talent around Schaub on offense holds its own, with former rushing champ Arian Foster anchoring a backfield that also includes breakout second-year back Ben Tate (942 yards, 5.2 yards/carry, four touchdowns in 2011)
The Texans rushed for the second-most yards in the NFL last season, trailing only the run-heavy Denver Broncos.
The receiving corps is mostly Johnson, a four-time All-Pro, but 2012 rookies DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin look like emerging players ready to contribute right away. If either or both come on strong in their rookie seasons, the Texans will remain potent throwing the football.
The tight ends—Owen Daniel and Garrett Graham, with starting fullback James Casey sprinkled in—will also be expected to put up numbers.
Houston's offensive line has Pro Bowl-quality players in left tackle Duane Brown (zero sacks allowed in 2011) and center Chris Meyers, and the line, overall, is still one of the AFC's best despite losing right tackle Eric Winston. The unit has steadily improved since Gary Kubiak took over as head coach.
All three layers of the defense has potential superstars.
J.J. Watt is emerging as one of the game's top 3-4 defensive ends. Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed, Whitney Mercilus and Brian Cushing make up a potentially devastating group of attacking linebackers. And Jonathan Joseph looked like a shutdown corner for most of the 2011 season.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is the steadying presence for a defense that gave up the second-fewest yards (4,571) and fourth-fewest points (17.4) last season. Houston may not improve on those marks in 2012, but it's hard to see a huge drop-off with the talent in place.
Even the special teams unit has weapons, as world-class sprinter Trindon Holliday has emerged as a potentially game-breaking returner. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the Texans' preseason opener.
On the surface, the Texans are a team with very few holes as the 2012 regular season rapidly approaches.
The talk in camp revolves around Super Bowl XLVII, and for good reason. Houston is the class of the AFC South and one of the few teams in the conference that appears ready to compete for a spot in New Orleans.
Every team needs breaks and a little bit of luck—the Texans found that out last season with injuries—but this is a roster and staff positioned to take the next step. It's certainly not inconceivable to predict a Texans-Patriots AFC Championship Game this January.
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