Houston has the talent to make the playoffs but it also has a brutal schedule. Despite the tough slate, Al Dannity likes the Texans to make a breakthrough in 2010.
Off-season changes Dunta Robinson’s departure and Brian Cushing’s four-game suspension means the Texans will start the season without two of its most productive players from 2009. The blossoming corps of secondary stars, including first round draft pick Kareem Jackson, means Houston should still be able to improve on pass defense despite Robinson’s departure. Cushing’s temporary exit will require a little more management but the Texans have arguably the deepest linebacker unit in the NFL. I expect Houston to cope without Cushing and explode once he returns.
NFL betting fans should see how Ben Tate’s arrival influences the ground game. The one-cut back from Auburn, a long-established factory for NFL running backs, should thrive in Rick Dennison’s zone-blocking scheme. He should serve as a complement to Steve Slaton, who can only improve on a fumble laden season in 2009.
Mark your calendar The Colts come to town in week 1, making for a thrilling start to the 2010 season. Houston’s second home game, in week 3, promises to be just as dramatic when the Texans take on the Cowboys. After the bye in week 7, Houston faces two tough tests against the AFC’s elite. First it’s the return game at Indianapolis before San Diego visits Reliant Stadium in week 9.
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A five game stretch from weeks 11 to 15 will test the mettle of these Texans. The slate begins with a trip to the Meadowlands to face the Jets. The Titans visit Houston in week 12 before the Texans take on another tough road assignment, at Philadelphia. Week 14 sees the Ravens come to town before the return game at Tennessee in week 15.
The verdict The Houston Texans have been everybody’s sleeper team to make the playoffs for the last four years. In 2010 they finally enter an NFL season as a legitimate contender for the playoffs, following the first winning season in franchise history last year. Looking at the schedule, it’s going to be tough but Pittsburgh won a Super Bowl with a far tougher slate in 2008. All the Texans need to do is make the playoffs.
Houston has possessed playoff caliber starting line-ups for several seasons but it has never had the depth to come through in the clutch. Now when Slaton fumbles, Tate can take the load. When Amobi Okoye’s mind wanders, Earl Mitchell can rotate in. You don’t make the playoffs without a bench, well unless you’ve got Peyton Manning, and Houston finally has one. Take the over of 8.5 wins at +135 with Sports Interaction. I like the Texans to go 11-5 and take a wildcard spot in the playoffs.