The Houston Texans’ search for a quarterback ended in the 2017 season with the arrival of Deshaun Watson, who proved his credentials in the NFL.
Watson was electric during his time on the field, including a five-touchdown performance against the Kansas City Chiefs. However, the 23-year-old suffered a torn ACL during his side’s narrow defeat to the Seattle Seahawks, ruling him out for the rest of the campaign.
The quarterback has had time to recover and has played in pre-season, giving the club hope that with their main man behind centre they have the potential to reach the Super Bowl. It’s the way Bill O’Brien’s men should be thinking given the quality of their roster.
Houston have been forced into a reshuffle on defense following the departure of Mike Vrabel. Romeo Crennel moves back to his former position of defensive coordinator, regaining the controls of an elite unit.
The Texans were hit by injuries to their best players throughout the 2017 term. Not only was Watson sidelined, but JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus missed the majority of the campaign, robbing the team of two All-Pro calibre players.
O’Brien will be hopeful that his side can avoid the same misfortune this term to regain their place in the playoffs, although the AFC South has quietly become one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL.
The Texans offense was night and day with Watson in at quarterback compared to the other players at his position on the roster. O’Brien made the decision to start the campaign with Tom Savage ahead of the rookie. It didn’t take him long to realise his mistake to put Watson into the side. With the 23-year-old in place the Texans were a revelation on offense. He threw down the field with ease, while Watson’s ability to run caused opposing defenses headaches a plenty.
The rookie proved his quality and character against elite teams in the NFL. Watson threw five strikes against the Chiefs and four apiece against the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks. He was unfortunate to lose to a late Tom Brady drive against the New England Patriots, highlighting his and the Texans’ potential. Without him Houston sank, struggling to mount a semblance of a passing game. Having Watson back on the field turns them into a contender in the AFC Conference.
The quarterback formed an excellent partnership with DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has been starved of a quality passer since being drafted by the club in the 2013 Draft. However, he has always managed to put up yards and touchdowns due to his quality. Expect Hopkins to be at the peak of his powers downfield with Watson back in place. An 1,000-yard season along with double-digit touchdowns should be in his sights. It will open up the offense for Bruce Ellington, Will Fuller and Braxton Miller to play supporting roles, all of whom will be battling for the number spot to complement Hopkins.
Lamar Miller will get the chunk of the carries on the ground. D’Onta Forman showed promise before tearing his Achilles in his rookie season. It will be a lot to task for the running back to return to form immediately following the severity of his injury. However, he could be an important player later in the season. Adding another dimension to Houston’s offense.
Houston’s defense boasts two of the elite players in the NFL, with Watt and Jadeveon Clowney in the pass-rush. Watt was named defensive player of the year two years on the bounce between 2014 and 2015, after previously winning the award in 2012. At the peak of his powers, there’s not a player that can match his quality and production in the league. However, a number of injuries have taken their toll on the 29-year-old, who has played just eight matches over the last two seasons, notching 1.5 sacks.
The Texans need him at his best on the defensive line, putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. In Watt’s absence, Clowney took a major step forward in his development. Clowney has struggled for time on the field with his own fitness issues. The defensive end has not lived up to expectations since being selected first-overall in the 2014 Draft. Clowney enjoyed his best campaign last term, collecting 9.5 sacks, a similar return is needed in the 2018 season.
Losing Watt was bad enough for the Texans, but Mercilus’ injury was a tough blow to take. He has been a model of consistency at the outside linebacker position. Mercilus adds an extra threat from the second level with his ability to rush the passer, while also providing an element of coverage downfield. Alongside Bernardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham, Houston will boast one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL.
The Texans made a coup in the secondary with the signing of Tyrann Mathieu. The safety was released by the Arizona Cardinals due to a high salary cap figure. Injuries have limited the 25-year-old on the field, but at his best Mathieu is one of the elite players at his position. Houston’s secondary has its faults, but should Mathieu find his best form, it could prop up his team-mates around him.
The Texans should be on course for a return to the playoffs if their key players are able to remain healthy. They’re one season removed from a Divisional Round berth therefore they’re more than capable of reaching the post-season either by winning the AFC South or securing a Wildcard spot. Back them to reach the playoffs at -118 and to win over nine matches at -143 with 888Sport. They face a challenge to knock off the Jacksonville Jaguars at the top of the division.
Back them at +200 with BetOnline to finish 2nd in the AFC South, although they could snatch the crown at +200 . They did push the Patriots in their Divisional Round match in 2016 and last term with Watson. Back them at +1000 with TopBet to win the AFC Conference, but the Super Bowl could be beyond them this season. Such a performance could O’Brien named coach of the year at odds of +1600 with 888Sport.
Watson’s return to the field will be huge for the Texans. He was on pace to throw for over 4,000 yards before his injury. Back him to lead the NFL in passing yards +2500 with BetOnline, while it’s not out of the equation that he could compete for MVP at odds +1800 . Hopkins should come into consideration to lead the NFL in receiving yards at +900 .
Watson and Watt were both sidelined last season and will be worthy candidates for the comeback player of the year award at +800 and +450 respectively with 888Sport. At +1000 Watt is good value to lead the NFL in sacks, although Clowney has better value at +6600 . However, take Watt at odds of +700 with BetOnline to win defensive player of the year.
Also take Hopkins to record over 1,300 receiving yards and over 10 touchdowns both at -115 with BetOnline. Meanwhile, it’s also worth a punt on Watson to notch over 3,800 yards and 27 touchdowns both at -120 with BetOnline to round off your Texans’ betting.
Houston Texans To Reach Playoffs
Houston Texans To Win Over Nine Matches
Houston Texans To Finish Second AFC South
Houston Texans To Win AFC South
Houston Texans To Win AFC Conference
Bill O’Brien To Win Coach Of The Year
Deshaun Watson To Lead NFL In Passing Yards
Deshaun Watson To Win NFL MVP
DeAndre Hopkins To Lead NFL In Receiving Yards
Deshaun Watson To Win Comeback Player Of The Year
JJ Watt To Win Comeback Player Of The Year
JJ Watt To Lead NFL In Sacks
Jadeveon Clowney To Lead NFL In Sacks
JJ Watt To Win Defensive Player Of The Year
DeAndre Hopkins To Record Over 1,300 Yards
DeAndre Hopkins To Record Over 10 Touchdowns
Deshaun Watson To Record Over 3,800 Passing Yards
Deshaun Watson To Record Over 27 Touchdowns