Houston Texans: 10 Bold Predictions for the 2011 NFL Season
While a disappointing 2011 season foiled what seemed to be a great opportunity for the Texans' first playoff berth, hope still springs anew.
With a premier defensive mind now running the Texans defense, it seems that Houston may finally have the pieces in place for a postseason appearance.
Here we'll look at the Texans' chances of getting past the Indianapolis Colts and into the playoffs, as well as other predictions for the coming 2011 season.
The Texans Defense Will Be an Instant Success
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New Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips apparently wasn't cut out to be a head coach, especially not with arguably the most widely known franchise in the league.
But even in his days with Dallas, he had strong defenses, particularly in the front seven.
Under his tutelage, players like DeMarcus Ware, Bradie James, Jay Ratliff, Kieth Brooking, Anthony Spencer and Terence Newman had solid or strong yearly campaigns.
Under the watchful eye of head coach Gary Kubiak, Phillips will put together a defense with players that will fit perfectly into the new 3-4 system.
If star defensive end Mario Williams is moved to outside linebacker, where he could be an elite force, Antonio Smith and 1st-round pick JJ Watt will hold down the defensive end positions.
The Texans may have the strongest inside linebacker tandem in the country with DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing, while the other outside linebacker position will be held down by pass-rushing specialist Connor Barwin.
The Texans addressed some secondary issues by drafting Brandon Harris of Miami, Rashad Carmichael of Virginia Tech and Shiloh Keo of Idaho to provide the starters with some strong competition.
Houston Will Finish Behind Indianapolis in the Division
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As much as I'd like to see the Texans finally win their division, I just don't see it happening as long as the Colts are getting elite play out of Peyton Manning.
Already a Hall-of-Fame-caliber quarterback, Manning proved he was the best the league has to offer last season, despite his numbers dropping off a little bit.
Amidst a cluster of untimely injuries and aging starters, Manning stayed steady and practically carried his team to the play-offs.
Personally, I don't think there is another quarterback in history who has been more successful at producing with such little-known commodities at the receiver positions.
As much a coach as he is a player, Manning has the unique ability to make the players around him better as well.
Without Manning, the Colts would be hard pressed to avoid finishing in last place.
But even with the possibility of the Texans signing a stud cornerback in free agency, they won't have enough in the secondary to stop Manning and his seemingly unlimited options.
As long as he remains in his prime, the Texans won't be able to get past him.
The Texans Will Earn a Wild Card Berth
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Despite finishing second place to Manning and the Colts, Houston will have a good enough record to squeeze into the play-offs as a wild card.
Although they seem to have a tough schedule, the defense will finally be strong enough to offer an elite offense some help.
After losing several tantalizingly close games in recent seasons, the Texans will turn the tables and crank out a few wins in some nail biters.
After reviewing the schedule, a record of 10-6 seems like a realistic finish for Houston.
Arian Foster: Statistics Will Decrease, Effectiveness Will Increase
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After Arian Foster's breakout 2010 season, in which he rushed for 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns on 4.9 yards per carry, fantasy football fanatics must be drooling at his potential.
However, in my opinion, Foster's statistics will drop.
Many times after a player has a breakout season, you see his hype shoot through the roof, only to see his production drop considerably.
But Foster won't have a down year by any stantards; on the contrary, I think he'll have a higher yards per carry average. The reason he'll have lower stats is because he will get more help this year.
Ben Tate and Derrick Ward will provide Foster with some relief so he won't have to carry as big a load this season.
Foster will still be a 1,000 yard rusher and produce impressive all-around stats for a strong offense.
Andre Johnson: A Third 1,500 Yard Season
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After two straight 100-catch, 1,500 yard seasons, Andre Johnson was being argued as the best receiver in the league.
But his stats dropped a bit in 2010, when he grabbed 86 catches for 1,216 yards and 8 touchdowns.
While that stat line is still impressive, it's interesting to add that those stats were attained in just 13 games. Had Johnson played in all 16, he likely would've hit that millenium-and-a-half mark for a third season in a row.
At age 29, Johnson is still clearly playing at an elite level, and with the defense likely set to take some pressure off the offense, he'll be let loose in 2011.
And with Owen Daniels back and healthy, Johnson won't get quite so much attention. We all know what the Miami product can do with less attention.
Owen Daniels: An Elite Tight End Once Again
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After two very strong 2007 and 2008 seasons, Owen Daniels was regarded as one of the league's best tight ends. But Daniels has missed 13 games over the past two seasons and has not been on the radar as of late.
If Daniels can stay healthy in 2011, he'll return to his place as one of Matt Schaub's top targets.
Andre Johnson's presence on the other side will be as beneficial to Daniels as Daniels' presence is to Johnson.
It's even a possibility that Daniels could have his first 1,000 yard season.
Mario Williams and Connor Barwin Will Combine for 25 Sacks
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Mario Williams has proven to be one of the league's premier pass rushers off the edge. With 48 sacks in five seasons, Williams is no stranger to production at defensive end.
But because of his incredible athleticism, it looks like coaches will move him to outside linebacker. His 6'6", 295 pound frame coming from the outside would be a huge load for any offensive tackle to take on.
As for Barwin, who was used as a pass rushing specialist in third down situations, an increase in playing time will, by default, lead to an increase in production.
And because he'll be at his natural position, Barwin will have a breakout 2011 season.
These two players will combine for an incredible 25 sacks from the outside this season. Good luck, quarterbacks.
DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing Will Combine for over 250 Tackles
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DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing quickly established themselves as elite NFL linebackers early in their careers.
Both players posted 156 and 133 tackles in their respective rookie seasons.
But in a 2010 season that saw both miss a considerable amount of time, neither got close to posting 100 tackles.
When both of these players are on the field, however, the Texans have a formidable defense.
With Mario Williams and Connor Barwin preoccupied with sacking the quarterback, Cushing and Ryans will be left to clean up on running plays.
If the two are healthy throughout the season, they'll combine for over 250 tackles.
Nnamdi Asomugha Will Be Wearing a Texans Uniform in 2011
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Hey, the title says "bold predictions", doesn't it?
While there is little evidence of this happening, a recent article on NFL.com revealed that Texans receiver Andre Johnson has talked with Asomugha more than once about joining the team.
I can't imagine a better player lobbying for the Texans, and if Asomugha is convinced of Houston's chances at the play-offs in 2011, he could pull the trigger.
If Bob McNair is willing to fork out a huge contract to the former Oakland star, the possibility of adding Asomugha is certainly there.
Considering he would instantly and exponentially improve the weakest link of the Texans' team, you have to think he would relish the opportunity to make Houston a Super Bowl contender.
The allure is there, and with a player of Johnson's caliber representing the organization, Asomugha has to be interested.
The Texans Will Send Seven Players to the Pro Bowl
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Although seven Pro Bowl selections seems like an unbelievable number (Houston had three in 2010), this prediction is simply a correlation to the rest of my predictions.
Assuming the wild Asomugha prediction is correct, he would almost certainly be the most obvious selection.
Andre Johnson, Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing would all be likely selections if their statistical years pan out as predicted.
Arian Foster, Connor Barwin, Owen Daniels, and Matt Schaub would also be considered, and I'm predicting two of those four get selected as well.
All things considered, if next season looks anything like these predictions, Texans fans will be in heaven.