Why the Texans will/won't make a run in the playoffs
The playoffs are upon us. Every season around this time, I feel like one of the Stark kids in Game of Thrones when they talk about how Ned always said "Winter is coming." Well, it's here and it looks like it'll be a doozy. The NFC is deeper than the Grand Canyon when it comes to Super Bowl contenders. Meanwhile, the AFC resembles a shaky spades hand: one for sure book (the Ravens) and a bunch of possibles (everyone else).
The Texans are one of those possibles. They're one of those teams that can make the playoffs, have some exciting pieces, and always keep themselves close enough to have a shot. What they do with that shot is another story. Historically, they haven't done much. Lots of Wildcard or Divisional round losses, some of which are flaming disasters. This year's team is no different. Or are they?
Why they will
-The success of any good to great football team starts and ends with the quarterback. Whether he's a playmaking savant, or an incubating game-manager, it doesn't matter. The guy controlling the ball on every snap is where it begins and ends with a team's chances for success. If Deshaun Watson can eliminate stupid mistakes, use his athleticism and playmaking ability to take over games, the Texans will be hard to beat. He has limited weapons due to injury and lack of depth, but the truly great ones find a way regardless.
-Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson were very late additions to the running back depth chart and have proven to be valuable in different ways. Hyde has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing, while Johnson has proven to be a change of pace and pass-catching option out the backfield. If both guys can continue to produce and step their game up, this offense is hard to defend and can put up points with just about anyone.
-Defense wins championships. That phrase has been around for years. It held more meaning 20 or so years ago, but still rings true to this day (see least year's Super Bowl). This defense isn't frightening, but it can be. They've proven to be better against the run than the pass. If they can force teams to be one dimensional, it'll give them a better shot at winning. Easier said than done. I get that. But with guys like D.J. Reader and Angelo Blackson clogging things up in the interior, it'll make the run easier to defend and the pass more predictable.
Why they won't
-Bill O'Brien is either this team's biggest catalyst, or it's heaviest albatross. More often than not, he's been an albatross. Clock management, play calling, and general jackassery have hampered this team's chances at winning far too often. This was magnified this past offseason when he became the Grand Poobah of Houston pro football. Not knowing when to call timeouts or challenges, calling predictable plays or calling the wrong ones at the wrong time, and horribly botching personnel decisions have all led this team to purgatory. They're too good to give up on in hopes of tanking for higher draft picks, but they're talented enough to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot every year. It's all on O'Brien's head at this point, and it doesn't look very promising.
-The pass rush and coverage have been terrible. I know J.J. Watt has been injured. I get it that they've added bodies throughout the year. I'm also well aware that the guys they've added have been castoffs from other teams. However, Romeo Crennel is a veteran defensive coordinator who knows how to win and has won in this league. Why is it that he can't seem to scheme something up to cover up for the defense's deficiencies? The lack of talent and the scheme shortcomings are going to cost this team come playoff time.
-The same thing that makes Watson great, are some of the same things that get him, and this team, in trouble. He often extends plays by escaping sacks. He also makes poor decisions when doing do that cos this team. The interception Titans' safety Kenny Vaccacro on Watson's attempt to find Johnson in the end zone was a prime example. He didn't/couldn't recognize the coverage (cover 2 disguised with a single high saftey that looks like man or cover three), scrambled out of the pocket to evade the rush, and made a late throw across the field. Knowing when and how to get rid of the football and protecting your team's possessions are all apart of being great. If Watson truly wants to be one of the best, he will eliminate these brain farts.
I firmly believe this team will: either barely get by their Wildcard opponent (looking like the Bills) and lose in the Divisional round, or they'll bomb at home and lose in the Wildcard round like they have in previous years. Either way, I don't see them going to the AFC championship game. There are too many factors against them. Chief among them is the simple fact that there are better and more complete teams in the AFC with homefield. This is a team that'll need things to break too perfectly for them in order for them to beat the likes of the Ravens, Patriots, or Chiefs on the road in the playoffs. Stranger things have happened. I'm not hating. Just calling it like I see it, or better yet, like we've all seen it over the course of this team's history.