Last season, the Texans started off with an impressive record of 11-1 before fading at the end of the season and losing to the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round.
The Texans proved last year that they are an elite team in the league. Through the first half of the season, they had the best record in the AFC, dominating on both sides of the ball. The offense was rolling, and the defense was on parade.
However, after a Monday night massacre in New England, the entire season began to go downhill. The Texans lost three of their last four regular season games, and in the playoffs, they lost in the Divisional Round, just like the year before.
2012 started off well, but in the end, it was a slightly disappointing season for the Texans because they had so much potential.
In 2013, the Texans are once again favorites for their division and among the top teams in the AFC. This year, the Texans will improve upon last season and make it to the AFC Championship and possibly the Super Bowl, if they get quality performances from their stars and tighten up their defense.
With linebacker Brian Cushing returning from injury, the signing of safety and Super Bowl champion Ed Reed and the presence of defensive end J.J. Watt, the defense should be even scarier than ever. Cushing is the captain of the defense, and after his season was cut short from an ACL tear, he vowed to return better than ever.
Long-time Ravens' safety Ed Reed signed with the Texans in free agency this summer, coming off of a Super Bowl victory. Reed is a Pro Bowler and a future Hall of Famer that brings a ton of leadership and experience to an already lethal defense.
Not a lot needs to be said about J.J. Watt. After only his second season, he was awarded with the Defensive Player of the Year honors. He led the league with 20.5 sacks. He is a nightmare for any offense to deal with, and he is only improving his game. Watt is a hard-worker and a professional, and he might even be the most valuable player in the league. He is ready to go for another brilliant season in 2013.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has the talent and the schemes to make this defense elite. When he was hired back in 2011, he turned a below-average defense into a top-tier one. After Cushing's injury, the defensive squad lost its mojo. This season, they should try and recapture their swagger and revamp the defense once again.
At the end of last season, Matt Schaub was struggling mightily. After the blowout loss in Week 14 against New England, Schaub couldn't regain his confidence and continue to produce like he had all season long. Schaub threw 21 touchdowns in his first 12 games but only threw three in his final six games. This season, Schaub should be back to his old self, like he was at the beginning of last season.
Schaub has a Pro Bowl running back in Arian Foster behind him in the back field, an above average offensive line and an All-Pro wide receiver in Andre Johnson. Both Foster and Johnson had terrific seasons last year and are reliable to do so again in 2013.
Foster led the league in rushing in 2010 and has been a contender every year since, despite some nagging injuries. He suffered yet another injury during OTAs this past month. Foster is key to the Texans offense because they like to run the ball, which shortens the game and also sets up the play action.
Foster should be healthy in time for the season, and the Texans also have a viable backup running back in Ben Tate. The running game should be just fine this year, if not better, because the offensive line has added an entire season of playing together. The zone blocking scheme that the Texans implement takes time to learn, and the linemen need experience to help mesh themselves together.
Andre Johnson has been a top wide receiver in this league for many years, but he isn't getting any younger. As reported by Dan Hanzus at NFL.com, Johnson requested that the Texans select another receiver in the NFL draft. The Texans listened, drafting DeAndre Hopkins out of Clemson with their first-round pick. The receiving core looks promising with these two athletic wideouts, as well as DeVier Posey returning from an Achilles injury mid-season.
The Texans had a solid year in 2012, but they know they can do better. They are ready to show the NFL that they can make the next big step.
The Texans also play the NFC West and AFC West this year, as well as the Ravens and Patriots, because they won their respective AFC divisions last season. The Texans should be able to beat San Diego, Kansas City and Oakland from the AFC West.
They also can beat St. Louis and Arizona from the NFC West. If they play their game, the Texans can come out on top against Seattle at home, but it will be tough to overcome the 49ers on the road in a prime-time Sunday night game.
In Ed Reed's return to Baltimore, the Texans will probably be able to fend off the defending champs for a solid road victory. But visits from the Patriots and Broncos probably won't go as well.
The outcomes above would put the Texans at 12-4, good enough for the third seed in the AFC. Once the playoffs come around, Houston will be ready to play anybody. The Texans are a tough out and should be able to make the AFC Championship. At that point, anything can happen.
The Texans are heading into this year with a "Super Bowl or bust" mentality. Expect great things from the Houston Texans in 2013.