3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Houston Texans

We move on to the AFC South in our continuing previews of all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days (or so), with the Houston Texans, who won the division last season.

The Texans had an eventful offseason, spending a lot of money to essentially redo their offense, signing arguably the best quarterback and running back in free agency. QB Brock Osweiler and RB Lamar Miller were the big signings, replacing QB Brian Hoyer (and other mediocre quarterbacks) and RB Arian Foster. Osweiler and Miller join WR DeAndre Hopkins, one of the top receivers in the league, on a team that has lacked offense in recent years. With the signings, it is apparent that the Texans are going all-in on this season, but an injury to DE J.J. Watt could provide an obstacle for the team to overcome if he is unable to play at the start of the regular season.

In eight games — seven starts — with the Broncos last season, Osweiler completed 170 of 275 passes for 1,967 yards and 10 touchdowns while throwing 6 interceptions. For the Dolphins, Miller had a relatively small workload for someone who started all 16 games; he ran the ball 194 times for 872 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also caught 47 balls and scored 2 touchdowns through the air. Hopkins was the star of the offense last season, with 111 receptions for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns — not bad numbers with the likes of Hoyer and QB Ryan Mallett throwing him the ball. Defensively, the Texans allowed opponents to score 313 points, the seventh-fewest in the league.

It’s a new look Texans offense, which should perform better than it did in 2015. Although Osweiler only has seven career starts under his belt, he definitely has the potential to be better than the quarterbacks the team used last season, and Miller will likely put up better numbers than he did in Miami because the Texans should give him a bigger workload than he had with the Dolphins. Hopkins is a star, and some of the defensive attention may be taken off of him this season with second-year WR Jaelen Strong looking like he’s get more reps this season and WR Will Fuller, who the Texans selected in the first round of this year’s draft, also expected to provide a viable receiving threat for the team. As mentioned, there could be questions on the defense early in the season if Watt is not ready to play when the regular season begins after undergoing back surgery a few weeks ago. Watt is obviously the key to the team’s defense, but many people think DE Jadeveon Clowney could be ready to take the next step in his career in his third year in the league.

The Texans’ schedule begins with a Week 1 home game against the Bears before hitting the road in Week 2 to take on the Chiefs in a rematch of last year’s playoff game in which the Chiefs shut out the Texans, 30-0. Then in Week 3, the Texans head to Foxboro to take on the Patriots in a Thursday night battle. The Texans do seem to get a break in that falls within QB Tom Brady‘s four-game suspension, so they won’t have to deal with him in the game. The Texans host the Colts in the Sunday night game in Week 6, then Osweiler returns to Denver in Week 7 to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos on Monday night. The Texans get another Monday night game in Week 11, this one being a “road” game against the Raiders in Mexico City. Weeks 13 and 14 have the Texans on the road against the Packers and Colts, respectively. The Texans play in primetime again on Christmas Eve during Week 16, hosting the Bengals, and they end the season at the Titans in Week 17. The Texans won nine games last season, and I’m projecting 11 wins this season with the team expected to have a significantly improved offense. Watt’s health could be a question mark, though, early in the season.

Sources: http://www.houstontexans.com/, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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