Texans hope for deeper playoff push
S E.Reed, P S.Lechler, FB G.Jones
LB C.Barwin, S G.Quinn,
DT S.Cody, LB B.James
WR K.Walter, FB J.Casey
This time last year, the Houston Texans were the hot pick in the AFC; seemingly every expert had them in the small group of 2-3 contenders for the Super Bowl. This year? A lot more quiet.
For a team that won their division handily and advanced to the Divisional Round in the playoffs before getting eliminated by the New England Patriots last season, their fall from prognosticators’ good books this off-season seemed odd.
The team returns the majority of last season’s roster with the cumulative talent lost in the winter essentially replaced by new acquisitions.
The offence will once again be Arian Foster’s show. The 26-year-old played all 16 games last year for the first time in his career, racking up 1,424 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to his third straight Pro Bowl. Were it not for the superhuman efforts of Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, Foster would be considered more than any other running back the best in the league.
The second most important player on offence is quarterback Matt Schaub, who lately has been just good when the Texans have needed him to be better than good. Still, the former third round pick is coming off a strong season and has done enough to keep people in Houston thinking he could be the guy to lead them over the hump.
Schaub returned from a 2011 foot injury to start all 16 games last year, throwing for 4,008 yards and 22 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. His sixth year in Houston was one of his best and was capped with his second trip to the Pro Bowl.
The 32-year-old seems to end every year with impressive numbers, but now needs to take the next step for Houston to take the next step, and to take pressure off Foster in crunch time. To this point in his career Schaub has yet to show that extra gear elite QBs have but if he can, the current version of the Texans will be more than just an “also-ran” come playoff time.
If Schaub’s Super Bowl window is closing in his 10th season in the league, so too could his favourite target Andre Johnson’s. There has been talk the past couple of off-seasons that Johnson, a six-time Pro Bowler, could finally be on the decline. Last year the 32-year-old caught 112 passes for 1,598 yards and four touchdowns so it clearly hasn’t happened yet; until it does, Johnson deserves the benefit of the doubt.
The Texans had a top 10 offence last year and there are no reasons to believe they won’t be again this year; the question is whether Schaub and Foster can keep the unit running on all cylinders heading into the postseason. As impressive as their offence last year was the team’s defence, a top 10 unit as well. (-Ben Fisher, TSN.ca)
JJ Watt set an incredible tempo from his spot on the defensive line all year long. What he did as a 3-4 defensive end last season, recording 69 tackles, 20.5 sacks, and countless hurries and knockdowns, en route to winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, possibly revolutionized the position.
The 24-year-old enters his third season in the league leading a group of several big names performers on Houston’s defence. Those names include linebacker Brian Cushing, a former Pro Bowler and Defensive Rookie of the Year who will have to return from a torn ACL suffered last year; Jonathan Joseph, a Pro Bowler in each of his two seasons in Houston; and free safety Ed Reed, fresh from his second Super Bowl win with the Baltimore Ravens.
AFC SOUTH PROJECTIONS
Division Winner once again
Lose tiebreaker, miss playoffs
Need to find a quarterback
Time to upgrade on defence
The 34-year-old Reed may not have much gas left in the tank, but he’s been burning premium fuel his entire career so what’s left is still worth the investment from the Texans’ standpoint. What he brings most to Houston is leadership and locker room intangibles and while he may have lost a step in recent seasons, he still has that seemingly natural ability for the big play.
The former Defensive Player of the Year will try to keep intact his streak of seven consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl this year.
The Texans made another solid veteran signing this off-season that didn’t garner the attention Reed’s did but could pay big dividends in the field position battle.
Punter Shane Lechler signed in Houston after 13 stellar seasons with the Oakland Raiders. The seven-time Pro Bowler has perhaps the best chance of any punter ever to one day enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The 36-year-old has a career punting average of 47.5 yards and while he may not have the leg he once had, is still one of the best punters in the league; Lechler’s running on the same premium fuel as Reed.
The Texans enter the 2013 season a strong team, and even a team one could argue is a little better than last year’s edition. The defence is a force to be reckoned with, special teams has a chance to be real strong, and Foster is one of the best in the running game.
The deciding factor in how far Houston ultimately goes this season could be Schaub’s play behind centre. He’s proven to be a good quarterback but not yet a Super Bowl-level quarterback. That doesn’t mean he can’t get there, but he’s running out of time and needs to prove he’s not theTexans’ missing link to reaching a Super Bowl. (-Ben Fisher, TSN.ca)
Special Teams: K R. Bullock, P S. Lechler, KR K. Martin, PR K. Martin
Special Teams: K R. Bullock, P S. Lechler, KR K. Martin, PR K. Martin
Fantasy - By The Numbers
The Texans' offence runs, literally, on the efforts of RB Arian Foster, who has 5702 yards from scrimmage and 47 touchdowns in the last three seasons, leading the league in both categories so, even if his yardage was down (to 1,641 yards from scrimmage) last season, he's a viable candidate to be the No. 1 overall fantasy pick.
Get ready for the fantasy season with the latest from TSN.ca.
Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | DEF
Fantasy Schedules: AFC | NFC
2013 Auction Values: Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Depth Charts: AFC | NFC
WR Andre Johnsnon was healthy last season and when he's healthy, he's a force, putting up a career-high 1,598 yards, the third time in the last five years that he's gone over 1,500 yards. Johnson's touchdown totals (six in 23 games over the last two seasons) have never been great, but that yardage is enough for him to be a top ten fantasy receiver.
QB Matt Schaub threw for more than 4,000 yards for the third time in the last four seasons and TE Owen Daniels had 716 yards and a career-high six touchdowns in 2012, making both worthy of fantasy consideration, even if more suited to being a fantasy backup at their respective positions.
It should go without saying that DE J.J. Watt is on another planet when it comes to his value, even in terms of fantasy football. Even if he can't duplicate his remarkable 2012 campaign, Watt's production makes him more valuable than any other defensive player. LB Brian Cushing, coming back from a torn ACL, is also a fantasy starter when healthy. (-Scott Cullen)