Houston Texans State of the Union: Where They Stand at the Half-Way Point

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 6, 2012

Arian Foster is having a huge year for the Texans.
Arian Foster is having a huge year for the Texans.Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Houston Texans are right on track to make all their dreams come true.

They are currently 7-1 and on top not only of the AFC South, but also the conference.

Here's a look back at their first half.


Predictions, Schedictions

Back in April, I predicted the Texans to finish the first half at 6-2. Their victory over Denver was the difference between the actual result and the projection.

The best-case scenario for Houston was 12-4, and that now appears safe. It has some difficult games, but it's unlikely it drops more than three of them at most.

The Football Outsiders gave Houston a preseason projection of negative-0.6 percent DVOA on defense, 6.7 percent on offense and 4.6 percent overall. Its projection was for just 8.4 wins.

Now, the Texans are at negative-21.0 percent on defense, 8.8 percent on offense and 19.5 percent overall. They are projected to win 12 games.

The Outsiders were way off on Houston, particularly because the statistical models predicted defensive regression that hasn't occurred. That's due to the incredible, unforeseeable play of J.J. Watt and generally good health from the unit.


Best Win

For the Texans, going on the road to beat Peyton Manning and the Broncos is the most impressive thing they've done all year.

The victory over Baltimore was definitely a highlight, but the beating Matt Schaub endured at the hands of the Broncos has been a defining moment for the this squad.

Worst Loss

There's only one, and it was a doozy. Obviously, the curb-stomping Aaron Rodgers delivered on Sunday Night Football won't go on any Texans highlight reels for 2012.

To the Texans' credit, they moved on quickly and have won both their games since.


Rookie Tracker

Before the year, the fair expectation for Whitney Mercilus was 25-30 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Through eight games, he does have two sacks, but only has five tackles.

DeVier Posey has been a total non-factor with no catches and one rush for a loss of three yards.

Keshawn Martin has returned kicks and played some on offense. His production was pegged at 20 catches, 300 yards and a score, or more realistically, 10/100/0. Currently, he stands at 6/63/0, so he's right on pace for an average season given his draft position.

The Texans are not relying heavily on the their draft class for production in 2012.


Must Improve

It's difficult to improve on a 7-1 record.

Obviously, the one glaring weakness the Texans have is their special teams.

They are ranked 32nd in the NFL, failing miserably to cover kickoffs while sporting below-average return units as well.

In the modern NFL, no team can be stocked at every position. The Texans are good enough on offense and defense to more than make up for bad special teams play, but having the worst squad in the league is never advisable.


Might Regress

The Texans currently lead the NFL with just six turnovers on the season. They've lost just one fumble, and Matt Schaub has thrown only five picks.

A big part of that has been the fact that they've largely played with big leads and have been able to be conservative offensively.

As they face a better slate of offenses in the second half of the season, they may not be able to play it so safe.

Schaub is historically very good at protecting the football, but a pick rate of 1.6 percent would represent a career best by a good margin.

The Texans have also been extraordinarily healthy on offense. They've had green lights all year from their best players. That has to continue for the team to stay on a roll.


Second-Half Outlook

Houston is up when the other traditional AFC powers are down. Even granting tough road trips to Chicago, New England and Detroit on Thanksgiving, it's hard to see the Texans slowing down.

Barring injury, Houston is going to finish between 12-4 and 13-3, and I predict it will, in fact, be the top seed in the AFC.

It's all about January for the Texans. They'll have some interesting tests along the way, but this is a team focused on the biggest prize of all.

It's hard to figure who could possibly stop them from getting there.


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