It amazes me that people talk about the NFC East as the best division in football.
Think about that. Three teams in the NFC East made the playoffs last year, yet two teams in the AFC South are arguably better than anyone in that division.
Now imagine being the Houston Texans. You’re stuck in the same division as two of the favorites to come out of the AFC. Three teams in your division made the playoffs last year.
You finished a respectable 8-8 last season. Had you not been in the AFC South, you may have been a playoff team. After all, you were 1-5 against your division, 7-3 against everyone else.
It sucks to be an up-and-coming team in the AFC South.
But they are just that—an up-and-coming team. They are one of those teams in the mix to win that final wild-card spot in the AFC, competing with the likes of the Titans, Browns, and Jets (among others).
Like every potential playoff team, a lot rests on the shoulders of the quarterback.
Matt Schaub is a good NFL quarterback. The problem is, he appears to be made of glass. Sage Rosenfels is a decent backup, but this team needs Matt Schaub to stay healthy.
The quarterback position becomes even more important when you take into account the fact that they have absolutely no running game. Chris Brown was brought in to compete with the aging Ahman Green for the starting job, but his career may be over. His season is definitely over, as he’s been put on IR.
Ahman Green is old. The scouting report says, “Runs like an old guy.” Third-round pick Steve Slaton is probably going to share carries with Green, and hopefully he’s good enough to win the starting job.
Andre Johnson is one of the best receivers in the NFL. When he was healthy last season, the Texans’ offense was completely different. He, like his quarterback, needs to stay healthy this season.
Kevin Walter blossomed last season, and he will benefit from playing opposite Johnson. Andre Davis and Jacoby Jones are both solid third/fourth wide receivers.
The tight end, Owen Daniels, is a decent weapon in the passing game as well.
Duane Brown was drafted to play left tackle, and he’s going to begin his first season as a starter. Given the importance of keeping Schaub healthy, this may or may not be a good thing.
Chester Pitts is a solid guard. Chris Myers was brought in because he knows the zone-blocking system Gary Kubiak wants to employ. Eric Winston is a solid—but not spectacular—right tackle. Right guard may be an issue. Michael Brisiel is currently listed as the starter, and he’s basically an unknown quantity.
The offense is going to live and die with the passing game, unless Slaton can develop as a productive NFL running back sooner than later.
The defense is built around recent draft picks, which is the best way to build a defense (assuming your front office drafts well).
The defensive line is above average.
Mario Williams is tremendous. He’s a monster. It’s amazing everyone thought Reggie Bush was a better draft pick coming out of college.
Amobi Okoye is a superstar in the making. Travis Johnson is best known for trash talking a knocked-cold Trent Green, but he’s actually a pretty decent player. Anthony Weaver is serviceable.
DeMeco Ryans is as talented a middle linebacker as you’ll find. Morlon Greenwood is a tackling machine on the weak side. Zac Diles is an unknown quantity at the strong side.
Dunta Robinson is coming off an injury, but if he’s healthy, he’s as good as anyone at corner. He’ll start the season on the PUP list, which means he’s out until after Week Six.
Fred Bennett is developing into a pretty good complement to Robinson. Not sure he’s ready to be the guy that draws the opponent's No. 1 receiver yet. Jacques Reeves will probably start in Robinson’s place. To say that’s a downgrade would be a significant understatement.
The safeties are underwhelming. Will Demps is a decent veteran free safety. CC Brown has yet to impress at strong safety, though he seems to be getting better.
The secondary is going to be a problem, at least until Robinson gets back.
I firmly believe that, if the Texans were in another division, say the AFC East or anywhere in the NFC, they’d make the playoffs.
I just don’t see three teams from the same division making the playoffs again this season. And I don’t see the Texans beating out both the Jaguars and the Colts.
Does he count as a sleeper anymore? Regardless, he’ll put up surprising numbers if Schaub and Johnson can both stay healthy.
Fighting for draft picks, fighting for the playoffs, or contending for the Super Bowl?
The Texans will be fighting for the playoffs, but it’s an uphill battle in the AFC South.
A tough division and lack of a decent running game will limit them to an 8-8 season.
But don’t fret—the Colts and Jags can’t both keep this up forever.
Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer and an NFL Community Leader at Bleacher Report. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.