Texans Mania

5 burning questions that will determine if the Texans' season is a success or a flop

Will Jadeveon Clowney put it into overdrive? Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group

Where were you on September 8, 2002, when the expansion Houston Texans shocked the world and defeated the Dallas Cowboys 19-10? It's hard to believe the Texans franchise is entering its 15th season. With a less-than-stellar mark of 106-134 during those previous 14 years, we take a moment to examine the burning issues and questions facing the Texans in advance of their preseason opener vs. Carolina Wednesday night in Charlotte.

1. Is Bill O'Brien on the hot seat?

Yes, the Texans head coach is on it. After a trio of 9-7 seasons, will his fourth year at the helm allow the Texans to take a notable step forward?

In year four, Pete Carroll won a Super Bowl with Seattle. There have been others: Mike Ditka in Chicago comes to mind, and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton brought Lombardi's prize to Bourbon Street in his fourth season. Of course, we know the legend in Foxboro: Bill Belichick had already won a pair of rings by his fourth year in New England, and in his fifth campaign he would pull in yet another.  

O'Brien will need to advance out of the second round of the playoffs if he expects a new contract beyond next season. He has a championship-caliber defense, but is that enough?  

2. How will the quarterback situation be handled?

He might not want to admit it, but for yet another season O'Brien will have a rotating carousel at the quarterback position. Does anyone really believe that Tom Savage will last a 16-game season fully upright with his limited mobility in the pocket and suspect offensive line? Does anyone believe that the public urging to "see what No. 4 can do" will subside and not intensify with each passing week to see Deshaun Watson in action? I guarantee you by a wide margin that there will be more Watson than Savage jerseys this year in the stands at NRG.

The Texans made a bold move in jumping up 13 spots on Draft Night to nab Watson. An even bolder move would be to actually play him. That will inevitabily come, and how the coaching staff handles juggling Savage and Watson will, in large measure, dictate the season the Texans have in 2017.

3. Can the Texans stay healthy?

Will J.J. Watt revert back to All Star form? Can Duane Brown on the offensive side get back to Pro Bowl caliber? Defensive back Kevin Johnson has Pro Bowl potential, but he needs to remain on the field to realize greatness. It should also be pointed out that there are aging vets on this squad.  Can Cushing and Jonathan Joseph endure another 16-game season?

4. Can the Texans beat New England?

Their postseason ended at the hands of Tom Brady. Their two-game winning streak to start 2016 also ended at the hands of the Patriots in resounding fashion. The combined scores of those defeats last year were 61 to 16.

As fate would have it, the Texans travel again to Foxboro in Week 3. Can they control the clock, force a few turnovers, and surprise with a gadget play for a chance? A victory could very well catapult the Texans into something special this year.  

5. How important is the Clowney factor?

How good can Jadeveon Clowney be? If you talk to his teammates and coaches around the league, the consensus is that Clowney has barely scratched the surface and that greatness is within reach. It's scary to think how good the Texans defense could be with a healthy Watt and Jadeveon at the helm.

One NFL insider told me last week, "Don't be surprised if Clowney leads the NFL in sacks this season." That's lofty praise for a guy who amassed a total of six sacks last season, but something not to be taken lightly. Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent had three gears in which he played; when fully primed and powering off the line, he was unblockable. Clowney, much like Dent, has different gears. If he puts it into overdrive, he'll wreck havoc on opposing quarterbacks and good things will happen for the Texans.

In closing, I'm predicting an 11-5 season for the Texans. They'll have the division sown up, and the New Year's Eve finale vs. the Colts in Indianapolis will be non-eventful. The Texans will earn a bye, win their divisional round, and inevitability face Tom Brady again in Foxboro in January. Enjoy the season, everyone!


Originally appeared on CultureMap. Craig Larson Jr. is program director of SB Nation Radio Network.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The new-look Texans won't get started until September, but the Roughnecks' season is about to begin. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Without much fanfare, or seemingly any, the Houston Roughnecks are preparing for opening night of the XFL 3.0 season just a couple of weeks away.

The Roughnecks will host the Orlando Guardians, 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 at TDECU Stadium on the UH campus. That’s less than a week after the NFL’s Super Bowl.

Before one pass is thrown, one run rushed, or one groin pulled, Las Vegas has set odds for the 2023 XFL season. Our Roughnecks and the Orlandos are tied for the longest odds on the board, +750. The early betting favorite is the St. Louis Battlehawks at +400.

Just a note: if you’re like Cosmo Kramer and think wagering on early-season XFL games is “some sweet action” – well, “you really need help, you need a team of psychiatrists working around the clock, thinking about you” and George Costanza.

Not surprisingly, good seats remain for opening night. Lousy seats, too. And seats in the middle.

If the Houston Texans and the all-mighty NFL couldn’t fill half of NRG Stadium, do the Roughnecks stand a prayer of drawing big crowds to TDECU Stadium?

One thing in the Roughnecks favor: affordable seats for their five home games on the XFL’s 10-game schedule. Season tickets for Roughnecks games start at $110 and go up to $480 at xfl.com. Individual game tickets, available on Ticketmaster, are $24 and higher. Reasonably priced food and drink (I kid because I love), plus an array of team merch will be available, including T-shirts ($25), baseball caps ($28-$34), sweatshirts and sweatpants ($45-$60), and bucket hats ($45).

Of course, nothing sells seats like winning. The Roughnecks were 5-0 and dominating the league last time the XFL played. That was 2020 when Covid-19 cut the season short. That was then …

This is now. Much like the Texans (as of this week), the most recognizable and popular figure on the field will be the head coach. The 2023 Roughnecks will be led by NFL veteran Wade Phillips, who has a lot of history and DNA in Houston. Quarterbacks currently on the roster are Cole McDonald from Hawaii, Kaleb Eleby from Western Michigan and Brandon Silvers from Troy State.

Most of the roster will be new names for Houston fans, although the league is bragging that 255 XFL’ers have been on NFL rosters at some point.

The Roughnecks will compete in the XFL South division along with the Arlington Renegades, Orlando Guardians and San Antonio Brahmas. That’s three out of four teams from Texas. The XFL North is comprised of the D.C. Defenders, Seattle Sea Dragons, St. Louis Battlehawks and Vegas Vipers.

Every XFL game (40 regular season, two playoffs, one championship) will air somewhere across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and FX, plus streaming on ESPN+. As they say, check your local listing to find the Roughnecks.

If you think that the XFL is just “too soon,” hold on until April when the Houston Gamblers take the field for the 2023 USFL season. Although don’t get too excited about attending home games. Houston’s “home” is in Birmingham, Ala. I know, silly.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome