There is very little optimism for the Texans as they take on the Patriots this evening. But here is why Houston could win and lock up their first trip to an AFC Championship Game (writer Ethan Lington contributed to this article):
Every sports analyst gives Houston no shot at pulling off one of the NFL’s largest upsets in its long history. It certainly is a daunting task laid at the feet of 72 million dollar man, Brock Osweiler.
Common sense should send me running to the hills prior to publishing this piece. But champions aren’t made by fleeing and taking the easy route. Come with me as I explain how the Houston Texans shock the world.
Duane Brown and a Revitalized Offense
Okay, you may be already thinking “Revitalized offense? Who have you been watching on the field?” Well, please allow me to explain, and bear with me.
In 2016, the Houston Texan offense was abhorrent. Plain and simple, they were literally the worst offense to make the playoffs in over a decade. The last time a playoff team averaged less points per game than Houston’s offense did in 2016 (17.4), it was the 2005 Chicago Bears with 16.3 points per contest.
The Texan offense was also hot garbage when it reached the red zone. They’re converting only 40.9 percent of their red zone drives into touchdowns. This was the worst by any playoff team since the 2011 San Francisco 49ers.
So, with all of these negative factors how could I possibly believe that this offense is good enough to prevail over the top-ranked scoring defense in the NFL on their home turf?
Rewind to the wild card game. The Houston offensive line did not surrender a sack, nor a single pressure. This, to a Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin led pass rush which accounted for a combined 18 sacks during the season. To put that in perspective, The Denver Broncos top two sack artists, Von Miller and Shane Ray combined for 21.5 sacks, giving them only a slight edge. Khalil Mack is a premier pass rusher who was stifled one on one by the backup at right tackle, Chris Clark (as shown here). If they can have a repeat performance against a formidable New England front, there is a vastly larger chance at success.
In their first meeting on Thursday Night Football, Duane Brown was still sidelined with a quadriceps injury. He is finding his form at the perfect time, as his last three or four performances have been stellar. Even outside of that, Brown has only surrendered one sack and has been penalized one time for the entire season. He is undoubtedly their anchor and sets the tone up front.
The offense as a whole improved from the success of the offensive line, as they should. The Texans were a perfect three for three on converting red zone drives for touchdowns. They put up 27 points, ten more than their season average.
If Houston can repeat this type of success and put up 27 points against New England, they have a legitimate chance of stealing one from the Belichick-led machine. Of course, all of this only matters if Brock Osweiler can take care of the football and not commit any deflating turnovers.