The Houston Texans have broken the Indianapolis Colts’ stronghold on the AFC South with a little power grab of their own. The Texans won the division for the second consecutive year last season. But despite the Texans improving their record to 12-4, the outcome was the same. After knocking off the Bengals in the wild card round, Houston was bounced the next weekend in New England.
With the Indianapolis Colts having finished just a game behind Houston and Tennessee and Jacksonville making bold off season moves to improve themselves, there are plenty of questions about whether Houston has the stuff to repeat as division champs, much less get beyond the second weekend of the playoffs.
Is Matt Schaub a Super Bowl caliber quarterback? Schaub was injured most of 2011 and rookie TJ Yates took the Texans to the second round of the playoffs. With Schaub back healthy, the Texans were early Super Bowl favorites for 2012.
The Texans went to New England on December 10 with an 11-1 record. Schaub had thrown 21 touchdowns to only seven interceptions to that point. After the Patriots thrashed them 42-14, the Texans won only two more games, at home against the Colts and at home in the playoffs against Cincinnati. Schaub threw only one more touchdown pass in the next 19 quarters before throwing two after the Patriots jumped to a 38-13 lead in their playoff game.
Can Schaub win the “big ones”? That seems to be a fair question with such a stark difference in performance down the stretch last season. When the Peyton Mannings, Tom Bradys, and even the Andrew Lucks are elevating their games at the end of the season, Schaub is going into a shell.
Can the Texans defense hold down opponents without creating turnovers? No team lived off the turnover more than Houston last season. In their 13 wins last season, they were +18 in turnover margin. In their five losses they were -7. The Texans’ defense is predicated on getting into the backfield and creating pressure on the opposing quarterback. When they can’t do that, or when mobile quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck are able to extend plays, their secondary has shown a tendency to break down.
Ed Reed came over from Baltimore, but there are questions about his age and health. Johnathan Joseph is as good as it gets at CB when healthy, but he’s struggled to stay on the field. Depth in the secondary is a weakness for the Texans.
Does Arian Foster have the ability to stay strong all season? Foster carried a career high 351 times last season and put up over 1400 yards on the ground. He also caught another 40 passes. Foster was clearly wearing down, however as the season wound down.
Foster had seven 100 yard rushing games in the first 11 weeks. He had only two more the rest of the season. His carries also diminished as the season wore on. He had only one game in the season’s final five games where he carried more than 20 times.
Foster should be in the prime of his career, but he’s taken a lot of punishment, racking up 1000 carries in three plus seasons as the Texans’ feature back. Ben Tate has performed well when Foster hasn’t been in there and could probably start for a lot of teams in the league, but make no mistake, Foster is the bell cow. The question is how much longer before he’s put out to pasture?
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