FALCON POINTS

5 key factors for the Texans to have a big season in 2020

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The NFL season starts tomorrow night, and maybe things will start to feel right in the world again. When last we left the Texans, they were blown off the field by the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. They have since paid their quarterback, jettisoned their best offensive weapon and done little to improve a porous defense. So why will things be different on Thursday?

They probably won't. But if the Texans are to make waves this season, these five things that have to happen:

1) The Texans can not start the season 0-2. Yes, they get both the Chiefs and Ravens, teams that dominated them last season and figure to vie for the top seed in the AFC again. But they were able to upset the Chiefs in the regular season last year, and the Ravens game was an odd effort coming off a trip to London. While the odds say they will lose them both, a big effort in one of the two games could set a good tone for the season. They could start 0-2 and still make the playoffs, but a win over a legitimate contender would go a long way to justifying the off-season moves.

2) Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb will have to combine for more production than DeAndre Hopkins. It might seem like a long shot, because both have to stay healthy. We'll see if Cooks plays this Thursday, but if he does, and they can add some explosiveness to the offense, the Texans could be on path for a solid season.

3) David Johnson has to party like it's 2016. The overpaid running back has been widely dismissed as a poor part of the Hopkins trade, but Johnson has not had a lot around him in Arizona the past couple years, and injuries have derailed him. His 2016 efforts got him paid (and made him a fantasy legend) but that season has been an outlier. He will have a better offensive line to work with and is presumably healthy and motivated. A repeat of 2016 where he had over a combined 2,000 yards rushing and receiving would be huge for the Texans.

4) J.J. Watt has to stay healthy and productive. It's asking a lot. Watt has played a full season just once in the last four years. The other three years he played 16 games combined. In the healthy year, he had 16 sacks, a number he will need to approach again, because the rest of the defense is shaky at best, and that's being kind.

5) Bill O'Brien has to figure it out. Year seven on the job for O'Brien has to be his best yet. He has rid himself of anyone who threatens him, and has had things all his way. There are no more excuses if the team does not contend for at least a spot in the AFC title game. If not, then O'Brien has clearly reached his peak with the Texans.

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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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