Houston Texans

Charlie Boccanegra | Wed. Aug 20 2008, 04:08 pm

The Houston Texans experienced the best season in their six years of existence last year, winning three of their last four games to finish at 8-8. And they did that playing in a division that sent three teams to the AFC playoffs.

Throw in a win over Tampa Bay and a loss to San Diego, and Houston played eight games vs. teams that eventually made the playoffs last year. The Texans only went 2-6 straight up and 3-5 vs. the NFL betting lines in those games, but hey, .500 is .500, and it’s something to build upon.

Statistically, the Texans were pretty average in coach Gary Kubiak’s second season in charge. They ranked 14th in total offense at 334 YPG, 22nd in rushing at 99 YPG, 24th in total defense at 344 YPG and 19th vs. the run at 114 YPG. Add it up, and Houston ranked 21st in total yardage at -10 YPG. And the Texans managed to win eight games last year despite a -13 turnover ratio, second-worst in the league.

Fortunately for Houston, that statistic tends to balance itself out from season to season. The Texans also went a ho-hum 8-8 against the spread last year, but 3-0 ATS as home underdogs. And the totals went 9-6-1 in Texans games, which averaged 48 total points per game.

First-year starter Matt Schaub hit 66% of his passes last year and compiled a 9/9 TD/INT ratio, and when he got hurt, backup Sage Rosenfels completed 64% of his throws and posted a 15/12 ratio. The Texans won four of the five games Rosenfels started. Ron Dayne, getting carries in place of the injured Ahman Green last year, led the team in rushing, then was let go over the offseason. Houston is asking for trouble if they’re going to rely on Green, whose gas tank reads more empty than full, to power this running game.

On the other side of the ball, DE Mario Williams (14 sacks last year) is working on proving the Texans right in taking him over Reggie Bush and Vince Young in the ’06 draft. But he needs some help; Houston must improve on defense before it can advance to the next level, which is claiming a playoff berth. And they need more production out of the running game. The Texans drafted Steve Slaton out of West Virginia, and he could be a playmaker. But he’s pretty slight at 5-foot-10 and 195.

An improvement of one game this year over last could earn Houston its first playoff spot. But that will still be a tough task, as the NFL odds reflect the truths of playing in the toughest division in this conference.