Houston Texans Progress Report: Where Things Stand Heading into Week 8

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistOctober 23, 2012

The master daps the student.
The master daps the student.Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE

The Houston Texans are 6-1 on the 2012 season and in first place, not only in the AFC South, but as the top seed in the AFC.

In Week 8, they have a bye.

They rank ninth on offense, third on defense and seventh overall in DVOA.


Primary Talking Point for Week 8

The bye week is a great time for the Texans to stop and enjoy their success. They can take a moment to savor their position as favorites in the conference without jeopardizing their preparation.

In house, the Texans will be repeating the same boring mantras as always.

Stay humble. Stay focused. We've haven't accomplished anything yet.

Externally, all the talk is about the playoffs. The AFC is just a horrid conference, and the Texans have already convincingly defeated two of their three primary rivals in the Broncos and Ravens.

They get the Patriots in a few weeks and have the opportunity to show that no one in the AFC can play with them.


Injury Outlook

Ben Tate had a slight hamstring issue late in the game against the Ravens.

Johnathan Joseph looked good despite struggling with a groin injury the week before.

With a week off, it's hard to imagine either injury affecting the Texans moving forward.


Player on the Rise

Whitney Mercilus has been nearly invisible so far, but he got his first sack and several hurries against the Ravens.

Mercilus was a pick at a position of strength, so it's no wonder he's not seen much action.

The Texans have needed to improve their non-J.J. Watt related pass rush, and against the Ravens they did it with four sacks by players not slated to be Defensive Player of the Year.

Mercilus breaking through was a welcome first step for the rookie.


Feel-Good Stat of the Week

The Texans have played one more game than most teams in the league, but have committed just six turnovers on the season.

That's first in the NFL. They are plus-7 on the season, having forced nine picks and recovered four fumbles to go against five interceptions for Matt Schaub and a single fumble from everyone else.

Arian Foster has 180 touches in 2012 with no lost fumbles.

That kind of ball protection will warm the soul of any coach in the league.


Troubling Stat of the Week

The Texans are 31st in the NFL in special-teams play, and in a close game, that could make all the difference.

The problems are not lost on Gary Kubiak, who said,

We’ve got to get a lot better special teams-wise. Probably the two most disappointing things have been covering kicks and kickoff return, which that boils down to your field position as a team and where your average drive starts. That’s something that we really spent a lot of time on as a team with Joe (Marciano). We’re going to start from scratch. We’ve got to get it improved, but we’re going to start over here when we come back from the break and obviously we’ve been looking at it. Hopefully we do some things that can help us out.

While the kicking and punting game have been solid, the real trouble has been with kickoffs, where they are 31st in efficiency on covering kicks and have lowest average return in football.


Overall Trend: Steady

Just like the loss to the Packers should not have changed any minds about the Texans, so the win over the Ravens doesn't alter what this team is.

There is so little competition in the AFC, that the random week-to-week fluctuations in play don't change the fact that there aren't more than two or three teams with any credible hope of making the Super Bowl in the conference.

Houston is one of those teams and by far the best of those teams.

Quote courtesy of the Houston Texans' PR department via press release.


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