The NFL is back, and Sportsnet is breaking down everything you need to know about each of the 32 teams—including why you should or shouldn’t be rooting for them this season—in the month leading up to kickoff on Thursday, Sept. 10. Today, the Houston Texans.
Last year’s record: 9-7
Head coach: Bill O’Brien
Core players: J.J. Watt (DE), Arian Foster (RB), Brian Cushing (LB), Jadeveon Clowney (LB)
2015 is about… Making the playoffs. The Texans failed to capitalize on their strong second half in 2014 and missed the playoffs by a hair. But there’s no reason why the team can’t try to carry that momentum over and crack a playoff spot on the backs of its elite defence.
They lost… Andre Johnson (WR) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB). After 12 seasons with the Texans, Johnson bolted for the rival Colts. This hurts Houston in multiple ways. One, the team is no longer with its best receiver and two, Johnson was the emotional leader of the team and to see him leave to play for a rival has to sting. Fitzpatrick played pretty well on the season after floundering in three straight at a critical point early on, but was ultimately deemed expendable in the off-season.
Arian Foster (RB) is still on the roster, but the earliest he’ll suit up is the second half of the season after he suffered a groin injury in early August. Ouch.
Yeah, but they got… Brian Hoyer (QB) and Vince Wilfork (DT). Hoyer enjoyed an up-and-down 2014 campaign with the Browns last season—he started hot before tailing off after Week 9—and should benefit from a change of scenery. Wilfork was a good addition as he commands so much space and could leave extra room for the likes of Watt, Clowney and Cushing to get to the quarterback.
Growing from within: No longer in Johnson’s shadow, DeAndre Hopkins should take the Texans’ No. 1 receiver job and run with it. While playing with Johnson last season, Hopkins eclipsed 1,200 yards receiving. Now there will be even more targets heading his way, so expect that production to see a bump upwards.
Why this team? Because Watt is one of the most magnetic players and personalities in the entire game. Not since Lawrence Taylor has the league known a defensive player who can impact the game in so many different ways. Watt is a force of nature who can break open a game at any time. He is one of the true non-quarterback franchise players.
Why not? Because this team perennially underachieves. For years it looked like the Texans should reach the AFC Championship game, but that just never come to fruition. Is this the year they finally break through? The team’s history says otherwise.
Perfect for fans of… An excellent pass rush. Between Watt, Clowney and Cushing, opposing teams’ offensive lines have their hands full and will often fail to protect their quarterback. So, if you like seeing quarterbacks harassed, this is the team for you.
How much hope? 6/10. Point: Clowney will finally play, giving a boost to an already beastly defence. Counterpoint: Losing Foster for half the season hurts an already suspect offence. Bottom line: Even without Foster, the Texans do have the talent to make the playoffs. That road will be fraught with difficulty, but it would be foolish to discount this team.
Will you be mocked for front-running? Potentially. Watts’s a bonafide celebrity and this team on paper seems like it’s on its way back up after an abysmal 2-14 campaign in 2013. Plus, the Texans are easy fodder for Cowboys fans, and there are a lot Cowboys fans out there.
A Meme to Remember: It honestly does feel like this at times.