It's the end of June and true football fans are weathering the constant barrage of baseball on their favorite sports networks, holding out for that thirty-second mini-camp clip, or waiting for the news that their first round draft pick was finally signed.
In June, playoff promises are easily made, especially by players who will most likely be making golf plans at the end of October.
Since making bold predictions is in style this month, I think I'll go ahead and make a statement I might not even remember come December:
The Houston Texans will be a major player in the AFC.
After riding a hot streak of winning five of their last six games, along with the best record in franchise history, the Texans are looking to make the next step this year: becoming a playoff team.
In an offseason, where the Cincinnati Bengals are the popular surprise team of the year, the Texans are making small moves to become a powerhouse.
In the first round of the draft, the Texans picked up Brian Cushing, a linebacker from USC. Cushing is a physical freak. His quick reaction and understanding of blocking schemes combine to make him a valuable tool in a defense that wants to create pressure through blitzing from multiple directions.
In the later rounds, they added two cornerbacks from the Mountain West Conference in Brice Mccain and Glover Quin. On the offensive side of the ball, James Casey, a tight end out of Rice, adds a multi-dimensional weapon to Gary Kubiak's arsenal.
While the defense has been the focal point for re-tooling over the last couple of years, the offense has established itself as a dominant threat in the NFL. In a division with the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans, who rank sixth and ninth in the NFL in passing defense respectively, the Texans found a way to rank fourth in yardage in the NFL.
Combine the dominant passing game with the 13th-ranked running game that averaged about 115 yards per game, and it's no surprise the Texans are a serious team despite being in one of the tougher divisions in football.
The Texans don't have an extremely forgiving schedule—then again, having a schedule with the Colts and Titans twice isn't ever easy—but they play a lot of teams that are still trying to find themselves.
In the past, Houston has had to deal with a division including Peyton Manning and the Colts, along with a Titans team that lacked the offensive force to go anywhere but had been defensively strong over the past years, and the bi-polar Jacksonville Jaguars that decide they want to be a playoff team every other year.
Now is the perfect year to make a playoff push in Houston.
The mighty Colts have lost Marvin Harrison as well as a prominent chunk of their coaching staff. The Jaguars are losing pieces of their already under-achieving offense as the days roll on. While the Titans shouldn't divert too much from last season's performance, Kerry Collins is a year older, Albert Haynesworth is in Washington, and Vince Young and Chris Johnson are creating problems in the locker room.
The AFC South is definitely vulnerable this season.
One final point isn't that important, but it could be one of the biggest potential X-factors for the team this year. His name is Rex Grossman, the former NFC Title-winning quarterback from Chicago.
While Grossman isn't going to make the starting job by the end of preseason, he has the potential to make a huge impact for the team in the '09 season. Grossman was picked up around June 12 in free agency and will compete with Dan Orlovsky, that guy from the Detroit Lions who ran out of the back of his own end zone, and Alex Brink for a spot on the depth chart, something definitely within Grossman's reach.
Matt Schaub hasn't been the most durable quarterback in the league while he has played for the Texans. If something were to happen this year to give Grossman even two starts, he would most likely make it work.
Known for his cannon arm, Grossman would have a true deep-threat target in Pro-Bowler Andre Johnson. Grossman-to-Johnson could become the '09 Kurt Warner-to-Larry Fitzgerald.
While everything previously stated could prove to be far fetched by November, the pieces are certainly in place for Houston to have a break-out year and finally achieve the first winning season in franchise history.
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