2011 NFL predictions are being released at a rapid pace now that the shortened offseason is finally finished and teams are getting ready to actually play.
The release of the NFL Power Rankings has triggered heavy debate on who's under the radar, who's overrated and who's destined to win it all.
In the midst of all the frenzied pick-'ems, it seems that the Houston Texans have been forgotten.
Every season since acquiring quarterback Matt Schaub in 2007, the Texans have been in contention to snag their first playoff berth. Unfortunately, they've fallen just short every year.
Last season though, after a brilliant 4-2 start, Houston slipped to a 6-10 record without even a chance at the playoffs. It's understandable that many critics are already dismissing this team as a bust.
In the recently updated NFL Power Rankings, the Texans were pinned at No. 17, expected to finish in the middle of the pack.
But don't write them off just yet.
Matt Schaub's Texans have been struggling to stay in games because of defensive setbacks, primarily the team's secondary.
At the start of the NFL free-agency period, Houston was quick to act, signing two veterans to bolster the team's defensive unit. Former Bengals' cornerback Johnathan Joseph and ex-Bears' safety Danieal Manning, both of whom have played five years in the NFL.
While the team's two key acquisitions may pale in comparison to the signings other teams have made during free agency, the Texans' defense was the only thing that needed to be taken care of.
They already have a dynamic offense to carry the team to wins, as Andre Johnson puts it, during an interview with KILT in Houston:
“I think our defense will be a lot better. Last year we were young at the back end as far as secondary-wise. Now the guys have the experience. Brought Johnathan (Joseph) and Danieal (Manning) in and I think even with bringing in J.J. (Watt) and Brooks Reed and all those guys...
Which offseason move was most important for the Texans?
I think that’s gonna help get pressure on the quarterback and it’s gonna make the work for the back end much easier. I’m excited and ready to see them on the field and watch them wreak havoc.”
The trick won't be getting the offense to click. In 2010, Matt Schaub threw for 300 or more yards EIGHT times, five of which came during losses.
If the Texans can make a splash within the AFC South (where they have a 7-17 record over the last four seasons), they'll be in contention for the playoffs.
But the biggest flaw in the NFL's youngest franchise is its inconsistency. Over the last four seasons, the Texans have endured SIX losing streaks of three or more games. Six times that Houston's fans have waited through almost an entire month without a win, in only four years.
Consistency is key to winning, and the entire organization will need to develop the right mentality in order to avoid such drastic meltdowns.
If Houston can fix its minor flaws, it's definitely considerable to suggest that this franchise will be in contention for its first playoff berth. The team has all the pieces in place. All that's left is the execution.
Prediction: Texans finish 10-6 and land an AFC Wild Card slot.