Hopes for the Houston Texans season depends on maintaining offensive prowess and improving a shoddy defense.
And then there is COVID-19, which, like it or not, has imposed itself into the formula for success of all teams.
Let’s take a look at the Texans prospects with those and a few other factors in mind.

The Pandemic

Despite the fact that Houston is a hot spot, and that 56 players league-wide have tested positive for coronavirus, the Texans have fared amazingly well.
Since June, when there were reports of positive tests among Houston players, no more positive tests have turned up in the Houston training camp. That’s largely due to the intricate testing system the Texans have employed.
But the virus factor will follow us through the NFL season as an injury report. And the fact that teams will travel makes it trickier.

Last Season

The Texans in 2019 won the AFC South division for the fourth time in five years, and they edged Buffalo in the wild-card round.

Bill O’Brien

Then came the Kansas City Chiefs. The Texans built a 24-0 lead early, then began allowing points by the bushel basket. KC had the lead by halftime and ended up with a 51-31 win to end the Texans season,
The franchise responded by giving Bill O’Brien the dual role of head coach and general manager. O’Brien responded by trading away the team’s top running back and one of the league’s top receivers, for which he took plenty of heat.
They’ve made a number of moves since, but this is no doubt O’Brien’s team.

Offense

Deshaun Watson is an elite quarterback. But finding a receiver to step up and replace DeAndre Hopkins will be one key to the Texans season.

Deshaun Watson

The answer will depend on the performance of a number of pass catchers. Will Fuller V, Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills are all speedy options. Fuller and Stills combined for more than 1,100 receiving yards last season, while Cooks had 583 yards for the Rams.
Toss in Randall Cobb, who the Texans signed as a slot man, and you have a crew of solid options for Watson.
The QB should get the protection he needs, too. Laremy Tunsil, Tytus Howard and company did their jobs last season, lowering the sack numbers from 62 in 2018 to 44.
On the ground, the Texans have David Johnson replacing Carlos Hyde, the 1,000-yard rusher they traded out. David Johnson saw limited play with the Arizona Cardinals last season. He’ll share RB duties with Duke Johnson, who had 410 yards on 83 carries last season.

Defense

This is the area that will make or break the Houston Texans season.
Last year the defense was atrocious. If allowing 51 points in a playoff game wasn’t enough, the fact that the Texans defense ranked 28th overall in the league was a signal for change.
With their anchor J.J. Watt out for much of last season, the team’s sack numbers slumped from 48 in 2018 to 31.
Watt is 31 years old, and is hard to count on for the performances of years past. So they may have to count on top draft pick Ross Blacklock, plus veterans Angelo Blackson and Charles Omenihu to take on bigger roles. They also signed former Raiders starter P.J. Hall.
The Texans traded out nose tackle D.J. Reader, so Brandon Dunn, who started 10 games in 2018, will likely be back in that starting role.
All of the linebackers in their 3-4 set are back, and should provide more pass-rushing help.
The defensive backfield doesn’t look to be in much better shape than last season. The Texans signed three safeties from free agency, none that promise much impact. Justin Reid played injured much of last season, so some improvement from him is possible.
Fourth rounder John Reid adds to the cornerback corps, and the rest are returning players.

Schedule

The Texans season opens at KC, then they have the Baltimore Ravens at home, then go to Pittsburgh. If they get out of September with a win, they’ll be fortunate.
Then they get into the meat of their division season, which won’t be easy either, since the Titans showed a lot of improvement last year and the Colts have Philip Rivers.
But the Texans don’t have any three-game road stretches, so the rest of the slate is a normal grueling NFL schedule.

Conclusion

The AFC South will be a mad scramble this year, and I can see the division winner being the only team from the group to make post season.
The Texans season will have to be better than expected for them to make the playoffs. It can be, but they will need a ton of surprises from the defense. I see maybe 8-8, but I don’t see a playoff appearance.