At the start of every NFL season, experts, talking heads, and fans alike all make predictions about division winners, MVPs, and eventual Super Bowl champs. Each year, there are always one or two teams that become trendy picks, everybody’s new favorite team or sleeper team that most believe have serious Super Bowl aspirations. As the predictions continue to pour in ahead of tomorrow’s season opener, it’s become clear that the Houston Texans have become very popular, garnering lots of love and Super Sunday consideration. But are the Texans truly worthy of the attention, or simply just the flavor of the week?
The Texans have all the makings of being a trendy pick. Despite their anticipated 2012 success, they’re rarely covered in the national media, that effort is saved for punt protecting virgin quarterbacks in the New York area. This gives the Texans a sort of sleeper feel even if they’re hugely favored to win the AFC South. The problem with trendy/sleeper teams is they rarely pan out, which brings up the question of whether the Texans are indeed worthy of the lofty expectations. They had success last season winning their first division crown and first playoff game with an injury-decimated roster. From the outside looking in, the Texans appear to have all the pieces of the puzzle falling into place.
When these sorts of expectations are thrown onto this type of team, the past results have proven to be disastrous. The closest comparable example is the San Francisco 49ers of the past five seasons. The Niners were a team that for several years in a row appeared to have tons of talent while playing a smash mouth style of football in a weak division. Until last season however, the 49ers routinely underachieved after showing signs of improvement and threatening to become a legit contender.
The 2012 version of the Texans is eerily similar to those 49ers. Same style of play, same weak division, same expectations of success. While the Texans have already proved they can perform on the big stage after last season’s playoff run (something the 49ers didn’t do) there are far too many variables affecting the outcome of their season to assume they’ll take the expected next step and challenge for a Super Bowl.
That’s not to say the Texans can’t or won’t. They do play in a weak division in the much weaker conference, which can’t be ignored. The road to New Orleans is much easier for Houston than most other NFL teams, but it’s never simple. Come playoff time, the Texans will still have to go through teams like the Baltimore Ravens and more importantly, the New England Patriots. Even when healthy, the Texans haven’t yet shown they are better than either of those teams. Again, that’s not to say in a one game playoff the Texans can’t or won’t win, but they’re still the underdog. Both of those teams have made repeated playoff runs and have won Super Bowls within the past decade or so, as have teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and anybody led by Peyton Manning.
The goal for the Texans in 2012 is to take the next step and join teams like the Patriots, Ravens, and Steelers in that stratosphere of year in, year out Super Bowl contenders. However, taking that next step is no foregone conclusion, even if it appears everybody with a computer believes so. If you’re a Texans fan like me, you have every right to hope for the best and expect the Texans to continue their ascension through the ranks of the NFL. Just try to proceed with caution.
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