If any team needs a do-over it’s the Houston Texans after what they went through last season. No team suffered more with injuries to their biggest stars and the team fell to the basement of the AFC South with a 4-12 record after recording back-to-back division titles. Through no fault of his own, Bill O’Brien had to deal with the loss of quarterback Deshaun Watson, along with defenders J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus among others. Better health to key personnel should make Houston a threat to exceed its win total and compete for another division title.
Houston Texans Opening Futures Odds at BookMaker.eu
Houston Texans Over 8.5 Wins -131
Houston Texans Under 8.5 Wins +109
2018 Houston Texans Offense Preview
Watson has returned from the knee injury that shelved him last season and the Texans are a potent group with him at the helm. He took over in the second half of last season’s opener when it was evident Tom Savage wasn’t starter material. Once Watson got used to his surroundings, the offense took off. Watson was just 3-3 in his six starts, but the offense reached heights never seen before. In five starts prior to his injury, the Texans scored at least 33 points in each game, including a 57-spot on division rival Tennessee.
With DeAndre Hopkins and a healthy Will Fuller, Watson has two of the best pass-catching weapons on his side. Hopkins topped the NFL with 13 receiving touchdowns and caught 96 passes for 1,378 yards, and much of that was without Watson tossing him the football. Fuller missed time with injuries last season, but he has the potential to make an impact in this offense. Hopkins and Fuller played four games with Watson and the Texans averaged 40.5 points in those outings.
2018 Houston Texans Defense Preview
It was bad enough losing one star defensive player, but the Texans lost two in the same game when Watt and Mercilus had their 2017 season end prematurely. Houston had the No. 1 overall defense two seasons ago and the talent is there to replicate those numbers. But without Watt, Mercilus and several others, the group dropped to 20th in the rankings. Defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel departed for the head job at division rival Tennessee, turning the reins back over to Romeo Crennel, who was in charge in 2016.
The starting front of Watt, Christian Covington and D.J. Reader all ended last season on injured reserve, but they are back. The health of three-time Defensive Player of the Year Watt is something to keep an eye on. We don’t know if he’ll produce the way he did when menacing opposing offenses, but without a doubt the group is better with him on the field. Watt has played just eight games over the last two seasons. Jadeveon Clowney was a force last season and made it through the year. A stronger pass rush should help the secondary, which was strengthened by the additions of Tyrann Matthieu and Aaron Colvin.
2018 Houston Texans Schedule Analysis
The first month of the season is going to be a grind but at least the team should be healthy enough to make a strong push. The Texans get three of their first four games on the road, including their opener at defending AFC champion New England. A trip to division rival Tennessee is next for a meeting with their old defensive coordinator.
Outside of the Pats, the rest of the AFC East tilts are winnable games. The Texans also get the NFC East this season, including a Week 5 visit from Dallas that begins a stretch where Houston plays six of nine games at home. The bye in Week 10 splits a road trip and defending division champ Jacksonville pays a visit to NRG Stadium to close the campaign. The schedule is favorable and with a healthy group, the Texans should navigate it well.
The Final Verdict
Before we go calling the Texans a contender, keep in mind that Watson is essentially playing the second half of his rookie season. But if he continues to make strides the way he did early last year, Houston should be potent offensively. It’s also hard to imagine the Texans getting struck so severely with injury problems again. Sure, they are a part of the game and injuries will happen over the course of a season, but to lose as many key players as the Texans did was criminal.
With Watson running the show Houston scored 30 or more points in a franchise record five straight games and he was on pace for 44 touchdown passes. Will he be as effective coming off knee surgery? Will Watt be able to put a full season together after missing a significant amount of time over the last two? And can the other players stay off IR? Those are all questions facing the Texans and if the answer is yes they will get at least nine victories in 2018.
NFL Betting Odds: Houston Texans Over 8.5 Wins
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