It was the NFL’s most dramatic turnaround last season when new head coach Bill O’Brien led the Houston Texans to nine regular season wins, seven more than they had in 2013. What is even more amazing is that O’Brien orchestrated the improvement while starting three different quarterbacks. If year two of the O’Brien era is to be another success, the Texans head coach will have to do it with yet another signal-caller. Both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum were traded and the Texans went into the free agent market to scoop up former Cleveland starter Brian Hoyer, who went 7-6 as the Browns starter in 2014.
Hoyer will compete with Ryan Mallett, who went 1-1 as the Houston Texans starter before tearing a pectoral muscle that ended his season. Tom Savage, last year’s fourth-round draft pick is also on the roster. Regardless of who the quarterback is, he will have a cast of wide receiver talent to work with which is why sportsbooks have listed the Texans 2015 squad with respectable NFL odds of 50/1 to win the Super Bowl, 22/1 to win the AFC Conference and +450 to win the AFC South. DeAndre Hopkins led the team a year ago with 1,210 receiving yards on 76 catches. Cecil Shorts was picked up from Jacksonville and the Texans drafted Jaelen Strong, a 6-2, 217-pound gem in third round this year.
Running back Arian Foster returns as one of the league’s premier runners. Foster carried the ball 260 times for 1,246 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Bruising Alfred Blue (6-2, 223) provides another backfield dimension. The second-year back out of LSU rushed for 528 yards as Foster’s backup. The Texans finished the 2014 regular season going 4-1 thanks, in large part, to a revitalized defense. Houston ranked fourth in points allowed and second in total defense. The unit forced a league-high 34 turnovers, 23 more than they did the previous season. Defensive end J.J. Watt, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, led the league in sacks with 20.5 and scored five touchdowns.
Last year’s first overall pick in the NFL Draft Jadeveon Clowney returns from microfracture surgery and the Texans picked up run-stuffing nose tackle Vince Wilfork from New England. Early 2015 AFC South predictions are expecting the Texans defense to be even better this season. In addition to Wilfork, Houston grabbed Rahim Moore in the free agent market. Moore is a rangy free safety who comes over from Denver. Houston also picked up free safety Steve Brown from the New York Giants as insurance. Knowing O’Brien, he will have his offense rolling no matter who the quarterback is. With one of the league’s better defenses, bettors looking to take the Texans in NFL odds should feel confident that Houston will challenge Indianapolis for the AFC South Division title.
Texans Update (9/8/15): Houston are now +5000 favorites in Super Bowl predictions, +2200 to win the AFC Conference and +425 to win the AFC South.