Wrap-up – The Bad – Anything less than a win in the playoffs falls short of expectations. It really doesn’t matter what the regular season record is. If the Texans don’t advance beyond the first round of the playoffs it is a disappointing year.
This is a talented roster, but among pundits there is real debate about whether Brock Osweiler is a franchise quarterback. If his critics prove correct the Texans will struggle to make the playoffs let alone win a playoff game.
If Osweiler performs as the Texans expect, the primary obstacle to meeting expectation is injury to key players. If J.J. Watt or Duane Brown are slow to return from the PUP list or ineffective after rejoining the lineup the playoffs are in jeopardy.
The Texans have no replacement for DeAndre Hopkins, who is holding out for a new contract. If negotiations are prolonged Hopkins will miss critical time working with Brock Osweiler. That would be a set-back for the young offense.
It’s too early to predict a problem, but if negotiations get ugly and Hopkins is forced back to the field without a new deal an attitude issue is possible. It also seems that a player who misses most or all of training camp is more vulnerable to injury. Every day Hopkins misses camp moves the needle away from The Good toward The Bad.
If totally healthy the Texans defense is strong enough to partially compensate for an offense without Hopkins, but there is an increased chance of losing winnable games as the season progresses. Some things can go wrong that are beyond the Texans control, but this one is controllable. Hopkins will be paid sooner or later. Management would be wise to make it happen sooner.
Beyond an injury to a key player a rash of injuries within a position group could also jeopardize the playoffs. Even a deep position group can become a liability if the injury bug bites enough players.
If Hopkins returns to camp soon and Osweiler meets the Texans’ expectations the roster is playoff quality. All teams are subject to being derailed by injury, but the Texans are deep enough at most positions that they can successfully overcome a normal season’s pattern of routine injuries. If Osweiler is the real deal and Hopkins is happy only serious injuries to the key players or an unusual rash of injuries to a single position group can trigger The Bad.
Next: The Ugly