LOS ANGELES, September 6, 2013 — The Houston Texans will have the best shot to win it the Super Bowl because they are the most complete team on both sides of the ball. If you are looking at past performance, picking Houston may not seem like the logical choice, but there are a number of new variables that should be factored into the equation this year.
In a league where elite teams are often one-sided offensively, balance is still what gives a team the best chance to go the distance late into the season. Combine that with a soft schedule and weakening conference, and the stars have practically aligned for Houston to run the table this year.
The Texans offensive approach comes from the more traditional Mike Shanahan school of coaching with a heavy emphasis on establishing the run. For the 2012 season, the Texans averaged approximately 132 yards/game on the ground, and ranked fourth overall in rushing touchdowns with 19.
While pass heavy offenses may be the new trend these days, a reliable run game still bodes well for teams in the post season. It helps by taking pressure off the QB, controlling the tempo and wearing down defenses late in the game. There are also more chances for big pass play opportunities with the threat of play action.
Typically teams that are more successful at running the ball late into the season fair better than those that do not. Going back over the last 25 years, 68% of the winning Super Bowl teams were successfully able to run for at least 100 yards or more. St Louis is the only team that won while running for less than 50 yards, but even those numbers may be skewed as Marshall Faulk was used more for dump offs and screen passes. Faulk had 90 yards receiving that game.
Looking at the passing offense, the Texans are one of better teams in this category, as well, averaging over 239 yds/game. Despite the lack of a legitimate number two receiver, and all the nagging injuries with Andre Johnson, this is a team that still produced over 3,800 yds and 22 touchdowns in the air last season.
Another interesting fact is that only four teams in the last 25 Super Bowls have actually won it passing for less than 200 yards. While running the ball is definitely important, being able to consistently move the chains by throwing the ball is almost an absolute must.
The defense did lose some key contributors this off season with linebacker Conner Barwin and safety Glover Quin being the two major losses. Barwin had a less than stellar year in productivity in 2012, disappearing at times during the season, but Glover was more than serviceable for them while leading the team with 85 tackles.
He will definitely be missed, but anytime you get a chance to sign Ed Reed in the off season it has to be considered an upgrade. Even in his elder years, Ed Reed is still one of the best in the league at the safety position. Reed’s four interceptions last season was still among the top 10 of all safeties.
Barwin will be replaced by former first round pick Whitney Mercilus, a player that has shown he is more than capable of being a productive within their defensive schemes. He tied the Texans rookie record last year with six sacks after linebacker Brooks Reed went down with a groin injury.
Houston’s getting Brian Cushing back and the addition Ed Reed should help to improve an already stout defense that ranked seventh in total yards, and fifth overall in sacks last year. Plus, the Texans still have the unanimous 2012 defensive player of the year, JJ Watt. This should take pressure off the secondary allowing them to focus more on the pass as opposed to worrying about the run.
The Texans have the benefit of one of the weaker schedules in the league again this year, ranking 27th overall. When taking a closer look at their non-divisional play, the Texans catch a huge break with the Chiefs, Rams, Raiders, Chargers, and Cardinals.
Divisional play only counts for six games toward a team’s overall record. Houston’s games outside their division highly favor them going somewhere between 7-3 and 5-5. It is practically a no-brainer that they should repeat as the AFC South division winners. Their only real competition comes from Indianapolis.
In theory, even if they were to drop three or four games against the tougher scheduled opponents, 49ers, Broncos, Ravens, and Seahawks, they could still wind up realistically with an 11-5 or 12-4 record and a first round bye.
Again, just a theory, but a highly probably one.
In the franchise’s short playoff history, they lost to both New England and Baltimore. Both of those teams have both won the Super Bowl on multiple occasions within the last 13 years. Injuries have also played their part, taking several key players before the playoffs. It is also no secret that the Patriots, Ravens and Steelers have been the dominant teams in the AFC since 2001.
That could very well change this year with the combination of retiring players, free agency, injuries, and aging rosters. It is a high possibility that these teams will no longer be a roadblock on Houston’s road to the Super Bowl. Just looking on paper at all the opponents in the AFC this year, Denver and Baltimore are really the only teams that jump out as viable threats.
All in all it is really still just a crap shoot, but the Texans have the best shot at winning the Super Bowl this year.
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