Texans Clinch AFC South, but What Can We Expect from Houston in Playoffs?

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IDecember 16, 2012

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 16:  Andre Johnson #80 of the Houston Texans walks out of the end zone after a first half touchdown during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Reliant Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Houston Texans can celebrate their AFC South crown, but after winning the division last year, their ultimate goal resides in the month of February. 

They weren't dazzling against those upstart, never-say-die Indianapolis Colts, yet they were the much more balanced team and rode stellar defensive line play from J.J. Watt and his boys to a 29-17 win. 

After completing the chief regular-season objective of winning the division, how far can we expect them to go in the postseason? 

Now, 12-2 is 12-2, and with the way we've seen parity blanket the majority of the league in 2012, the Texans should be proud of what they've accomplished. 

However, somewhat shoddy secondary play, occasional inconsistency from Matt Schaub and the lowest yards-per-carry average of Arian Foster's career coupled with the beatdown the New England Patriots put on them in Week 14 have many wondering how Houston will fare against the AFC's upper echelon in January. 

Here's the thing. 

Without Brian Cushing manning the middle of Wade Phillips' 3-4, the Texans just won't be as dominant. 

Losing a player of his caliber at such a central position, a guy with a multitude of responsibilities against the run and pass, was rather crushing. 

Thankfully for Houston, J.J. Watt is an absolute terror and will continue to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines. 

His presence has a vast ripple effect on the rest of the defense, a defense that's certainly good enough to make a deep run in the playoffs. 

Will it utterly shut down, say, the Denver Broncos' attack? 

Probably not. 

But outside of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, they won't be up against an elite quarterback or dynamic offense until the AFC Championship game. 

The Colts offensive line is deplorable, the Cincinnati Bengals struggle with steadiness and Joe Flacco can't get out of his own way. 

On offense, Houston is built for the postseason. 

Their zone-blocking scheme isn't as bull-dozing as it was last year with right tackle Eric Winston now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, but Foster is silky smooth on those stretch plays and the play-action game that is precipitated off it is extremely deadly. 

A matchup with the Broncos in Houston would be interesting, and with game tape on New England to learn from, so would a rematch with the Patriots. 

As it currently stands, despite not playing as soundly now as they did earlier in the year, the Houston Texans remain fringe Super Bowl contenders and should host the AFC title game.