Can the Houston Texans Take the Next Step?

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We’ve all watched the slow climb of the Houston Texans over the past decade or so from expansion team to contender.

After breaking into the playoffs in 2011, it appears as though Houston has plateaued. For most teams, two straight visits to the postseason would be considered a good thing, especially when you have won a game in both visits. You can’t help, however, to feel like the Texans and their fans are a little disappointed.

Both playoff wins came in the Wild Card round. The Texans had to play in the Wild Card rounds both years due to their poor performance in the final four games. In the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined, the Texans have a record of 2-6. Both years, what looked like promising seasons where the Texans would get to the playoffs and earn a first round bye ended up with weak finishes and Wild Card berths.

Now, heading into 2013, it appears that Houston has made a few changes in order to prevent that scenario from happening again.

For starters, they brought in Ed Reed at safety. Reed is going to give them the leadership the secondary they have lacked in recent years. His championship pedigree will no doubt rub off on his teammates both in the locker room and on the field and give Houston’s defense a different attitude.

The other key addition for the Texans came by way of the 2013 NFL Draft. For the first time in a while, it appears that Houston will have a legit No. 2 receiver to line up across from Andre Johnson. DeAndre Hopkins out of Clemson has drawn rave reviews all throughout rookie camp as well as OTAs and appears to be “the real deal.” His arrival should be welcomed by Matt Schaub, who’ll now have another effective target outside of tight end Owen Daniels to depend on when teams are focused on stopping Johnson.

Arian Foster returns and should again be one of the top five rushers in the league. He’ll have his old security blanket Ben Tate back this season to spell him along with a mixed back of journeymen and rookies.

Defensively, the Texans should be sparked by the return of Brian Cushing who was out all of last season. His return along with the presence of J.J. Watt should solidify the Houston front seven as one of the NFL’s best.

Looking at the Texans’ schedule for 2013, they’ll play five of the NFL’s elite teams — New England, Denver, Baltimore, San Francisco and Seattle. If they can win two of those games and lose only one of the other 11 they’ll play, that 12-4 record could very well be enough to keep them out of the Wild Card round and secure a first-round bye. For the first time in their history, they would host a Divisional Round playoff game.

That could be all they need to be knocking on the door of the Super Bowl. Last year, the home team won three of those four games. Denver lost the fourth in overtime.

BY J.P. SCOTT ON JULY 2, 2013

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