With Watt at full strength the defensive line is more than good enough for the Texans to make the playoffs. If, in addition to Watt, a defensive end emerges on the other side, it is an excellent defensive line. If Jadeveon Clowney joins the party with a breakout year this is a dominant defensive line that could lead the Texans defense to a Top-5 ranking. What is the likelihood of each scenario?
The Good – For the defensive line to exceed the already high expectation that went into my 10-6 prediction Watt must be fully effective from the beginning, another defensive end must emerge and Clowney must show why he was an overall #1 draft pick. If all that occurs 11-5 is probable and 12-4 a possibility.
What is the likelihood of The Good considering Watt’s surgery? <5%
The Bad – If Watt is out for more than 4 games or a shadow of his true greatness when he returns and the other end is “just a guy” the Texans defensive line cannot meet my initial expectation. A dominant Clowney can keep the defense afloat, but he has yet to show consistent dominance. If the D-line is still underperforming at the halfway point the Texans are likely to be 8-8 at best and out of the playoffs.
What is the likelihood of The Bad considering Watt’s surgery? 30%
The Ugly – If Watt is out much longer than projected, or if he is ineffective when he plays and Clowney or Mercilus is injured, a 6-10 season could be on the horizon.
What is the likelihood of The Ugly considering Watt’s surgery? 10%
If anyone can fully recover for the first game or soon thereafter it is J. J. Watt. No doubt the Texans’ coaches, doctors and training staff will take a conservative, long term approach considering both J. J.’s and the team’s future. Despite Watt’s tremendous drive and high pain tolerance it seems unlikely he can be impactful in the first few games. The playoffs are still attainable, but far less likely than before Watt’s latest surgery.