Houston Texans just 16th in ESPN’s final ‘preseason’ power rankings

ESPN’s ‘power panel’ didn’t elect to give the Houston Texans much love in their latest rankings heading into the 2020 season.

Is it time for Houston Texans fans to start tempering their expectations?

For a team that has finished first in the AFC South in four of the past five years, the Texans aren’t getting much love or respect from the experts and analysts around the league these days.

Less than 20 days after Bleacher Report projected Houston would go 8-8, finish third in their division, and miss the playoffs, ESPN released their latest NFL power rankings on Tuesday — and the Texans are ranked just 16th out of 32 teams.

Keep in mind: in Bill O’Brien’s six seasons as head coach, the Texans have finished with a record worse than 9-7 just once (in 2017 they went 4-12 after Deshaun Watson’s ACL tear cut his rookie season premature).

ESPN evidently polled “a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities” to comprise this list.

It’s not quite a final preseason power ranking because there is no preseason this year obviously, but you get the picture. This is where the Worldwide Leader in Sports views the Houston Texans entering the regular season.

Are Texans really that mediocre or are all these sports sites dead-wrong?

Is there something we don’t know about this team less than three weeks out from the Week 1 opener against Kansas City?

Yes, trading DeAndre Hopkins hurts. Sure, David Johnson has a good deal of injury risk associated with him. And okay, Brandin Cooks has had his fair share of concussions in recent history.

Still, this team unquestionably got better at a number of positions this offseason.

The defensive line should be vastly improved with a healthy and well-rested J.J. Watt, a second-year leap from Charles Omenihu, and a young but talented addition in top draft pick Ross Blacklock.

There’s no reason to think Watson won’t be in his best form yet now that he’s in his fourth season as a pro. He might not have the best top-end talent to throw to anymore, but he has a deeper, more balanced roster of receivers, tight ends, and running backs at his disposal.

All in all, it’s hard to understand why the Houston Texans find themselves ranked so far below other teams on ESPN’s list — teams like the Tennessee Titans (No. 9), Buffalo Bills (No. 11), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 13), and Indianapolis Colts (No. 14).