The Houston Texans backed into the playoffs last season and lost QB Matt Schaub in the process. T.J. Yates and Jake Delhomme filled in at quarterback, but could only get them into the second round of the playoffs.
Arian Foster and Ben Tate are back to lead the ground attack, but two important pieces are not back in 2012, DE Mario Williams and LB DeMeco Ryans. In 2011, the Texans were top-5 in both areas of defense. With the emergence of J.J. Watt and Connor Barwin, Williams and Ryans became expendable.
Key Additions: LB Bradie James, RB Justin Forsett, CB Alan Ball, P Donnie James, FB Moran Norris, DE Whitney Mercilus, WR DeVier Posey, OG Brandon Brooks, C Ben Jones, WR Keshawn Martin and DE Jared Crick.
Key Losses: DE Mario Williams, LB DeMeco Ryans, OT Eric Winston, QB Matt Leinart, K Neil Rackers, RB Derrick Ward, FB Lawrence Vickers, TE Joel Dressen, CB Jason Allen, QB Jack Delhomme, C Chris Myers and Matt Turk.
Non-Division Schedule: AFC East and NFC North
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Keshawn Martin – Jacoby Jones is no longer on the Texans and Martin will be taking over as their return specialist. He will not be in that role exclusively. He should play in the slot position or take over the 3rd wide receiver position if DeVier Posey has a rough training camp. Martin has even seen time with the first team during Texans training camp while Johnson is out with an injured groin.
Team Analysis: Let’s be real, it isn’t going to take much to win the AFC South. Indianapolis and Jacksonville are both really bad and Tennessee overachieved in 2011. The Texans could end up winning this division with an 8-8 record, but they are better than that. Schaub does have durability issues, but Foster and Tate are more than reliable if called upon to carry 40+ times combined in a game. On defense, they will miss the leadership from Williams and Ryans. The squad will be solid, but not outstanding. I like rookie Jared Crick to be a surprise this season. He will fit well next to Watt and Barwin. I loved him at Nebraska and was a steal as a fourth-round draft pick. Houston will win the division, but Schaub and Johnson will need to stay healthy for the entire year if they have any Super Bowl aspirations.
2012 Wins Over/Under Line: 9.5 (Prediction: OVER)
2012 Projected Win/Loss Record: 10-6