First off, the title does not mean that the Houston Texans should be favored to win the Lombardi Trophy in 2012-13. It just means they have a better chance than about 28 other teams in the league, including teams in their own conference like the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The favorites remain the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers but there are no other comfortable favorites in which one can make an argument against the Texans.
Even though there are four teams in front of the Texans, those teams still own huge flaws (Green Bay's defense, New England's offensive line, San Francisco's quarterback and New York's regression from last year's 8-8 record). Also, it doesn't hurt that the Houston Texans also play in the weaker of the two conferences this year: the AFC.
Not to mention that the Texans probably won't face much resistance from their own conference in racking up a record that should hand them a comfortable bye week and home-field advantage in the playoffs. While that may not seem important, keep in mind that somewhat injury-prone players like Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub could use that rest to heal.
They also possess the best run game in the NFL with franchise running back Arian Foster and star backup Ben Tate. Their zone-blocking scheme not only hammers the other teams offensive line but also enhances Schaub's play-action ability with one of the best receivers in the game—Andre Johnson.
Critics might question Andre Johnson's ability to stay healthy, but when he is, and he has stayed that way this preseason, he is second only to Calvin Johnson. He dominated as recently as last postseason with third-string quarterback T.J. Yates manning the offense. Imagine the Texan offense full strength this year. It may not be the quick-strike high-octane SportsCenter-highlight worthy offense of the Patriots, Packer, Saints ilk, but it will be just as effective.
Their defense also ranks amongst the best in the league, ranking 2nd in total defense with shutdown corner Jonathan Joseph and punishing linebacker Brian Cushing. But the blueprint to a Super Bowl berth is the pass rush and how effective the defensive line can get to the opposing quarterback. Ask how the New York Giants did it. Twice. The Texans ranked 6th last year with 44 sacks behind the efforts of rookie J.J. Watt and linebacker Connor Barwin, two players that will only get better.
The last aspect that works in their favor will be the competition they will face in the postseason. The AFC is presumably weaker than the NFC this year as the Texans' scariest opponent in the playoffs are the Patriots. Sorry Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but your teams just don't strike fear into the hearts of the Texans as much as the Giants, Packers, 49ers, Eagles, Bears, Lions, Falcons and Saints would.
Simply put, the Texans face a road less treacherous when they aim to venture across in an attempt to win the Lombardi Trophy. Combine the weaker schedule, the offensive balance of the run game and Andre Johnson and the defensive pass rush; the Houston Texans make a very scary team in the postseason.
One that shouldn't surprise people if they are in New Orleans on February 3.
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