The Houston Texans Have Liftoff

Andrew GloverCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2008

In the first five weeks of the season, the Houston Texans definitely had problems. On opening day, Willie Parker and the Steelers (5-2) ran past them to a 38-17 win. Instead of kicking off the home season, Hurricane Ike delays the game against Baltimore until November and damages Reliant Stadium’s roof.

The Texans had some chances against the Titans, but Tennessee (7-0) pulled away, 31-12.

Then the Texans lost two heartbreaking games. They allowed a 24-20 lead in Jacksonville (3-4) to slip and lost 30-27 in overtime. The following week, at home, they allowed a 27-10 lead slip in the last four minutes against the Indianapolis Colts (3-4) and lost 31-27.

Now, they have gone on a three-game winning streak, beating the Dolphins (3-4), Lions (0-7), and the Bengals (0-8), and have put themselves in the playoff picture, going into the second half of their season.

Out of the Texans’ nine remaining opponents, five of them have the same or worse record than the Texans, with the worst being the Raiders at 2-5.The teams that have a better record than the Texans, only one of the four is better than 4-3, and that’s the Tennessee Titans who are the only undefeated team.

The Texans are home in that game. Therefore, the Texans remaining opponents are definitely winnable games.

Matt Schaub is definitely proving why he is the starting quarterback for the Texans the last three games. In the three-game winning streak, Schaub has completed 72 of 101 passes for 926 yards, six touchdowns, and only two interceptions. In the first three losses, Schaub was 71 for 110 for 697 yards, four touchdowns, and five interceptions.

If Schaub can keep producing like the last three games, the Texans have a good chance of winning football games.

Rookie running back Steve Slaton has 476 yards rushing on 104 attempts and five touchdowns. Slaton has also not fumbled the ball in 104 carries and 22 receptions. In the Texans’ three wins, Slaton has 191 yards rushing on 47 carries, and two rushing touchdowns. In the Texans’ four losses, Slaton has 285 yards on 57 carries and three rushing touchdowns.

Ahman Green has had to battle for injuries but has put up 219 yards on 48 carries and one rushing touchdown. Slaton and Green need to gain quality yards on runs and produce more short second and third downs.

Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, and Kevin Walter are the leading receivers for the Texans. Johnson has 56 receptions for 772 yards and two touchdowns. Daniels has 32 receptions for 395 yards and two touchdowns.

Walter has 29 receptions for 363 yards and five touchdowns. In the Texans’ victories, Johnson had 32 receptions for 462 yards and one touchdown. Daniels had 13 receptions for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Walter had 12 receptions for 195 yards and two touchdowns.

The key in the second half of the season will be for these receivers to keep the Texans moving down field and pointing points on the board.

The Texans’ defense was not stopping anything in their first four games. They allowed an average of 334.3 yards per game, 194.5 passing yards, 139.8, 19.8 first downs and allowed 32.5 points per game.

In the last three games, the Texans have limited their opponents to 92.5 yards rushing per game, and 317 total yards per game. Opponents in the last three games have averaged only 18 points per game. Therefore, if the Texans’ defense can get stops, they can allow the offense to put up points and finish off opponents.

In the four losses, the Texans turned the ball over nine times and only forced four turnovers. In their three wins, the Texans turned the ball over five times, four of them against the Dolphins and forced four turnovers, three in their last game against Cincinnati. If the Texans are going to be playoff contenders, they must win the turnover battle.

The Texans have done fairly well on special teams. Kicker Kris Brown has been perfect so far this season, making all 19 extra points and 10 field goals. Four of Brown’s field goals have been from 40 yards or more. Matt Turk has averaged 43.4 yards on 21 punts.

Andre’ Davis has averaged 22.2 yards per kick return, with a long of 50. Jacoby Jones is averaging 14.7 yards on punt returns with two touchdowns. His longest has been 73 yards. If the special teams continue to produce, it will help the Texans’ win the field-position battle.

How are the Texans (3-4) still in the playoff picture in the AFC? Currently, they are in a three-way tie for second in the South division. The Bills are the only second place team with a record better than 4-3. The division leading Broncos are the only team above .500 in the AFC West.

Therefore, the Texans are within a game of the last wild-card spot, and if they beat Minnesota, and Jacksonville and Indianapolis lose, the Texans are in sole possession of second. How the Texans play in the second half will determine their destiny.