The Houston Texans 5-game Over/Under projection made back in April will tempt you. You may think that any team is capable of a 5-12 record, even if the Texans figure to have not just expansion talent; but a coach who strikingly reminds one of Chris Palmer.
Yes, David Culley has a lot of Palmer in him. The guy has been around the league for years, he’s 65 years old, and it’s his first head coaching gig in the NFL. Culley didn’t just pay his dues; it seemed like the NFL charged him double.
Now, he gets to embark on a thankless job, which involves turning the Houston Texans into winners. Hey, anything can happen, including a scenario where you bet the Over and come away a winner.
State of the Houston Texans
As mentioned in the intro, you’re looking at a team equivalent of an expansion roster. The Texans have nothing at quarterback if Deshaun Watson refuses to return, let alone potential legal trouble. That leaves Tyrod Taylor, Jeff Driskel, and Davis Mills fighting it out in training camp.
Mark Ingram, David Johnson, and Phillip Lindsay comprise a patchwork running back committee. Ingram and Johnson could play at one time, but they’re done. Lindsay is a good back, but often underused.
Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks are about as good as it gets in the receiving unit. Jordan Akins figures to start at tight end. The only other pass catcher worth mentioning here is Donte Moncrief.
Defensive tackle Ross Blacklock, the team’s top pick in 2020, recorded just 14 career tackles. Whitney Mercilus and Zach Cunningham are good puzzle pieces, but Mercilus is heading into his 10th season and is aging.
And just about the rest of the defense comprises cast-offs like Terrance Mitchell, Vernon Hargreaves, Shaq Lawson, and Bradley Roby. Justin Reid may be the best player on the defense, which isn’t saying much.
As you can see, things look so bleak for the Houston Texans that they would make for a fair bet to land the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Just how desperate are things in Houston?
- So how would you like to be David Culley?
- But, does that mean this post is swaying you to bet the Under?
Not at all. Let’s look at some of Houston’s strengths, because they’re few, but they’re here.
Strengths of the Houston Texans
Experience can take you places, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor knows all about it. Better yet, Taylor saw moderate success earlier in his career. Let’s not count out a Taylor-led team out just yet.
A deep sleeper in the 2021 NFL Draft, Mills probably would have heard his name called on Day 1 if he had more college experience. He started in just 11 games over the past 2 seasons, which explained his fall to the third round.
Think something like the Baltimore Ravens or even the Cleveland Browns. Cobb and Cooks have produced well in their many stops. And Akins has proved himself serviceable.
If Blacklock makes The Leap, the Texans may find themselves overachieving despite the limited talent on their roster.
Weaknesses of the Houston Texans
There is no way around it. Look, if the Texans encroach the Over in 2021, it’ll be 6 wins tops. There are terrible football teams in years’ past who would give this year’s Texans a run for their money, including the 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2017 Cleveland Browns, and even the 2008 Detroit Lions.
David Johnson has struggled with injuries, despite a decent 2020 campaign. There’s a reason the Ravens no longer wanted Ingram. And Phillip Lindsay’s size limits him.
Especially with a tidal wave in the first month of the season that includes the Cleveland Browns in Week 2, the Buffalo Bills in Week 4, then the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, and Miami Dolphins before the bye.
If last year’s team went 4-12 with Deshaun Watson, what will an encore presentation look like without him? Watson wanted out, and odds are he’s not coming back. J.J. Watt wanted out, and he’s now with the upstart Cardinals.
Schedule of the Houston Texans
Since the Texans finished third in the AFC South in 2020, they get to face the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, and Carolina Panthers as a reward.
The Browns only finished in third place because they played in a tough division – and they still won a playoff game against a division champion.The Chargers have a quarterback who set several rookie records and played like Aaron Rodgers in most of his appearances. The Panthers are in Year 2 of a rebuild and they got some talent, but the Texans may hang with them.
It’s a stretched may, however. Expect a floor of 0-3 and perhaps a ceiling of 1-2. Common opponents include the NFC West and AFC East. Here, 7 of the 8 teams can wind up in the playoffs. Even those who didn’t make it in 2020 have a chance.
Those teams being:
- The Cardinals.
- The Patriots.
- And the Dolphins.
But again, on paper the Jaguars look far superior:
- We could easily see Davis Mills v. Trevor Lawrence in Week 1.
- But, the entire AFC South could prepare the brooms against the Texans.
- But, they can also win 3 games against the South.
Their third win could come in a meaningless Week 18 game at home against the rival Titans if the latter secured a playoff spot.
But, if they sweep the Jaguars, win a meaningless tilt against the Titans in Week 18, upset just one of those 7 playoff contending common opponents, beat the Panthers, and the Jets, the Texans could finish 6-11.
Can the Houston Texans Become a Good Bet for the Over?
Slim to none and Slim just left town. However, strange things happen. Teams go on Cinderella runs every year and in the NFL there’s always that team that can and will surprise. So maybe the Texans can be that team.
But they will need to play a style of football that fits their team’s strengths, which will involve using their running back committee often and throwing only when necessary. The cast-offs on defense need to party like it’s closer to the mid-2010s and outperform earlier versions of themselves if they’re to go anywhere.
So the Texans can do this, just like any team. But if you look at all the NFL power rankings out there, most have the Texans at #32. So far, they have given no indication that they deserve to be ranked any higher.
The Houston Texans could barely encroach the over, but they need to win against bottom-dwellers, pull off an upset or two, and hope the Titans don’t need to win their last regular season game.
What are your thoughts on the Houston Texans? Can they somehow reach the Over, or are they a better bet for the Under in 2021 at the online sportsbooks? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.