The Houston Texans are coming off of a 2018 campaign in which they won 11 games and captured the AFC South division title before bowing out to the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. Now, they are hoping to expand on their success and make a deep postseason run in the 2019 NFL season.
With Andrew Luck suddenly announcing his retirement, the AFC South is now wide open for the taking, and the Texans have to be considered the favorites at the moment.
But making the playoffs will hardly be an easy road for Houston.
So, here are five bold predictions for the Texans going into 2019:
5. Their Defense will Take a Step Back
Houston was a decent defensive ballclub last year, finishing 12th in total defense and fifth in points allowed. But with Tyrann Mathieu leaving via free agency and Jadeveon Clowney on the move, the Texans will have a hard time repeating that success in 2019.
Yes, there is still J.J. Watt, but overall, Houston lacks the top-end talent of the other really good defensive units in the NFL.
The Texans won't be a bad defensive team, but they'll probably be more middle-of-the-pack, and it would not be surprising to see them finish in the bottom half of the league in total defense.
Of course, that will put that much more pressure on their offense to succeed.
4. Their Run Game will be Among the Worst in the League
Not that Lamar Miller is so spectacular, but him tearing his ACL is a pretty big blow to a Texans offense that doesn't exactly have a lot of depth in the backfield.
Now, Duke Johnson, who has always been more of a pass-catcher than a rusher, will take over in his stead, and considering he has never even rushed for 400 yards at any point of his four-year career, that isn't a very comforting thought.
Houston does have rookies Karan Higdon and Damarea Crockett, as well as second-year back Buddy Howell, so it's possible that someone out of that group could emerge as a threat, but right now, the ground game is not looking too great for the Texans.
3. DeAndre Hopkins will Lead the League in Receiving Yards
With Houston's run game being a prominent issue, the Texans will probably throw the ball a bit more in 2019, which should provide even more opportunities for DeAndre Hopkins, who may very well be the most talented wide receiver in the league.
Houston also has Will Fuller and Keke Coutee, but both of those wide outs have difficulty staying healthy, which will likely put even more of the onus on Hopkins to produce.
That should mean big numbers for Hopkins, who is coming off of a season in which he racked up 115 receptions for 1,572 yards.
Expect even bigger things from the 27-year-old in 2019, and even in a league that houses fellow receivers such as Julio Jones, Michael Thomas and Tyreek Hill, I think Hopkins will end up pacing the NFL in receiving yards this year.
2. Deshaun Watson will be a Top MVP Candidate
Deshaun Watson was on the verge of having a historic rookie season in 2017 before a torn ACL ended his year prematurely, but he bounced back very nicely in 2018, throwing for 4,165 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions while completing 68.3 percent of his passes and posting a passer rating of 103.1.
You would think Watson would have needed some time to fully recover from the knee injury, but he showed no ill effects last season.
So, imagine what he can do this year, especially if Fuller and Coutee can stay on the field?
Remember: it's not just the aerial attack for Watson, either. He also rushed for 551 yards and five scores in 2018, so he can beat you in many facets of the game.
This kid is really, really good, and the thought here is that he'll post big numbers and be one of the top MVP candidates throughout the year.
1. The Texans will Win the AFC South
The AFC South is a tough division to predict. It's probably the only division where all four teams have a shot of finishing No. 1.
The Indianapolis Colts may have lost Luck, but Jacoby Brissett is no scrub, and there is still a lot of talent on that roster. The Tennessee Titans have a ferocious defense. The Jacksonville Jaguars made a very necessary change at quarterback and are just two seasons removed from making it to the AFC Championship Game.
Really, any team can win it, and it might only take nine victories.
But I am rolling with the Texans because they have, by far, the best quarterback in the division, and with so much parity, I have to go with the team that won it last year.
Houston has the quarterback and the experience, so I feel like we owe the Texans that much respect.