By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
With 10:58 remaining in the second quarter of the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Houston Texans found themselves in a shocking position with an early 21-0 lead thanks in large part to two massive special teams miscues by the Chiefs.
The Texans offense would have the ball for the fourth time on the day and be faced with a 4th and 1 decision on the Kansas City 13 yard line. Unbelievably enough, O’Brien eschewed keeping the foot on the gas against the best offense in football and elected to take the points and push the Texans lead to 24-0. Mecole Hardman would return the ensuing kickoff 58 yards to the Houston 42 yard line, and Patrick Mahomes would put the Chiefs in the end zone just three plays later.
You could feel the game begin to turn.
Then after a three and out on the Texans’ next possession, Bill O’Brien decided to have a Freaky Friday situation with a 13-year old kid playing a random online match on Madden 20 and called the worst fake punt in the history of modern-day civilization.
The following three and a half quarters of action would provide enough highlights for Patrick Mahomes to take to Chiefs GM Brett Veach to get a half-billion-dollar contract extension, as Kansas City would eviscerate the Texans defense en route to a 51-31 win.
The game spiraled away from Bill O’Brien so quickly, the Chiefs managed to go from trailing 24-0 with 10:00 remaining in the first-half to leading 28-24 at the break. The Atlanta Falcons needed an entire half to blow a 28-3 lead, the Texans only needed 75% of the second quarter.
Fortunately for Texans fans, the meltdown at Arrowhead Stadium was enough to not only not force Bill O’Brien’s firing from the team, it somehow managed to get him a promotion!
Houston would tab O’Brien to be the team’s new general manager, as they were very impressed with O’Brien’s ability to trade away key assets from the team for roughly two cents on the dollar, and BOB kept his promise as the 2020 offseason began by giving away one of the best wide receivers in the game when he would trade DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for the corpse of David Johnson and some store credit at Gamestop.
Now Houston is set to embark on a new season of football, where they are somehow irrelevant in the football-crazy state of Texas.
Will O’Brien’s gambles pay off and leave many with tweets that will be later be shared by @OldTakesExposed, or will the reckless trading from an over his head general manager be the final straw for the Bill O’Brien regime in Houston?
Texans 2019 Season Review
Houston entered the 2019 campaign the same way they have entered so many other campaigns — as defending AFC South Champions following a disappointing early exit in the playoffs.
There were slightly raised expectations for this version of Texans football, however, as the team finally acquired much-needed protection on the offensive line for their franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson when they went out and traded for Miami Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil before the season kicked off.
Houston also would give away Jadeveon Clowney after a months-long contract standoff, and as an omen for the future, the Texans would get much less than they probably should have for Clowney’s services, only fetching a 2nd round pick and filler players from Seattle in exchange for the former #1 overall pick.
The Texans would begin the season in the Superdome on Monday Night Football against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, and if it weren’t for the Texans secondary that looked like what you displace the morning after a late-night Taco Bell binge and has for the last three seasons, Deshaun Watson would have begun the season with a thrilling come-from-behind road victory. Instead, Houston was left with a heartbreaking 30-28 loss as Wil Lutz would drill a 58-yard field goal at the gun to give the Saints the victory.
Watson and the Texans would soon bounce back, winning four of their next five games including an impressive 31-24 road victory against the Chiefs, and following a loss to Indianapolis a week later, Houston would post victories over the Raiders and Jaguars to improve their record to 6-3 at the bye week.
Following the bye week, the Texans would suffer a 41-7 blowout loss at the hands of Lamar Jackson and the Ravens before they would once again bounce back and rattle off another four wins in their next five games, including a 28-22 win over a Patriots team that seemingly held co-ownership of the franchise on Sunday Night Football.
Houston would wrap up the AFC South title in Week 16 and render their Week 17 matchup against the Titans meaningless, and with their division foes only needing a win to get into the playoffs, the Texans backups would open the door for the former home of Houston football to join the postseason party.
In the playoffs, it appeared as though the Texans were on their way to yet another dud to open the playoffs, as Houston would enter their AFC Wild Card game against the Buffalo Bills trailing 16-0 late in the third quarter before Watson would rally the Texans once more thanks to a combination of clutch throws, scrambles, and costly Bills mistakes. Houston would ultimately defeat Buffalo in overtime and set up their second trip of the year to Arrowhead Stadium, which as we detailed above, did not go too well for the team.
And now, Houston enters 2020 with an opening game in the same location their 2019 season came to a close.
Future Trade Bait for Bill O’Brien
RB David Johnson (Cardinals/Trade)
WR Brandin Cooks (Rams/Trade)
WR Randall Cobb (Cowboys)
S Eric Murray (Browns)
Bill O’Brien Didn’t Like Them, So That’s Probably a Good Sign for Their Futures
WR DeAndre Hopkins (Cardinals/Trade)
DT D.J. Reader (Bengals)
RB Lamar Miller (Patriots)
RB Carlos Hyde (Seahawks)
S Tashaun Gipson (Bears)
LB Barkevious Mingo (Bears)
CB Johnathan Joseph (Titans)
RB Taiwan Jones (Bills)
Texans 2020 Offensive Preview
Bill O’Brien hopes that his gamble on David Johnson will bring some balance back to the Houston offense and relieve a lot of the burden placed on the shoulders of his franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson, but the cost to acquire the 28-year old running back from Arizona was steep, as the team gave up superstar DeAndre Hopkins in the trade.
The trade of course was met with a whole lot of scrutiny, and if Johnson continues to look like the shell of his past self as he has the past two seasons, this could ultimately be the trade that gets Bill O’Brien fired. David Johnson will pair with Duke Johnson to form a backfield that sounds like a fancy law firm or company that makes consumer products but make no doubt about it all the eyeballs will be on what O’Brien gave Hopkins up for.
In the meantime, the Texans are looking to retool their offensive roster, solely because of Bill O’Brien and for no real other reason. Houston went out and traded for the rights to former Rams WR Brandin Cooks, but Cooks has had his share of concussions and has missed time from injury. Cooks is certainly not the same wide receiver as Hopkins, even when he’s healthy, but he’s been quite productive in his own right as he’s topped 1000 yards receiving in four of his six seasons as a pro.
Houston will be pairing Cooks up with big-play wide receiver Will Fuller, but Fuller’s durability has been an even bigger question mark than Cooks has during his career, and the former Notre Dame alum has missed multiple games due to injury in each of his four seasons as a pro, so him getting injured is becoming as regular an event in Houston as Bill O’Brien trading someone for no apparent reason.
The Texans also went into free agency and signed Randall Cobb to a three-year contract, giving the Texans a potentially potent wide receiver trio if the three players can stay on the field, but again that seems to be unlikely.
Editor’s Note: We are pausing this preview for a moment to make sure O’Brien has not yet traded Watson to Chicago for a deep-dish pizza, and it appears he’s still on the roster so let’s resume.
In addition to short-lived playoff runs, Bill O’Brien has been especially good at getting Deshaun Watson hit repeatedly by opposing defenses. Laremy Tunsil anchors the Houston offensive line, but he can only block so many people. For Houston to have any shot at a postseason run that goes on longer than the first Saturday game of Wild Card Weekend, the Texans will need to see major improvement along the offensive line in 2020.
2019 1st round pick Tytus Howard will return in his second season as the teams starting right tackle, with four-year veteran Nick Martin returning at center. Houston will start 2019 2nd round pick Max Scharping at left guard with Zach Fulton playing in between Martin and Howard at right guard.
At tight end, the Texans will look to veteran Darren Fells and 2018 6th round pick Jordan Thomas for production, with not much else behind that.
Texans 2020 Defensive Preview
Surprisingly enough, O’Brien managed to not trade Texans’ cornerstone J.J. Watt to Pittsburgh for an old Kordell Stewart jersey (we double-checked to make sure), and Watt will return in 2020 to headline a Texans defense that was picked apart early and often a season ago.
Houston’s defense ranked a miserable 28th overall a year ago and makes the achievements of Deshaun Watson that much more impressive. The peak of the Texans defensive misery came when it only took 10 minutes of game time for a 24-0 lead to evaporate in their playoff game against Kansas City, but this was a unit that had a massive shortage of big plays a year ago.
Fortunately enough for Houston fans, Bill O’Brien did practically nothing to add personnel to this depleted unit! That’s right Texans fans, BOB wants to run it back because what says aspiring Super Bowl contender more than bringing back all the key pieces from a team that surrendered 42 points in less than two-quarters of action just nine months ago.
J.J. Watt returns for his tenth season with the team, but has been wearing down every season and is not the same Watt that took the league by storm at the beginning of his career, though by all accounts his grit meter is still off the charts. Watt will be paired with Whitney Mercilus in new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver’s 3-4 based scheme, and Houston hopes that 2020 2nd round pick Ross Blacklock will fill the shoes of D.J. Reader who left in free agency to play for Cincinnati. Charles Omenihu and Jacob Martin, who came over in the Clowney trade a season ago, also figure to see time on passing downs.
The Texans linebackers are the strength of the Houston defense and will return all four starters from 2019, led by the inside tandem of Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney. They will join Mercilus and Brennan Scarlett, who will start at outside linebacker.
Houston will also be returning the majority of their secondary that was nothing short of awful a year ago, headlined by veterans Bradley Roby and Gareon Conley, with Vernon Hargreaves III and Lonnie Johnson Jr. also in the mix. The team will be starting free-agent addition Eric Murray at strong safety, and he will pair with 2018 3rd round pick Justin Reid. However, given how they fared a season ago, it’s hard to get too excited about this group on paper until they display a reason for some optimism.
Texans 2020 Outlook & Prediction
The Texans are one of the more confusing teams in the entire National Football League, and one can’t help but wonder how much better this team would look if Bill O’Brien just concentrated on his offense and left the general managing decisions to someone that doesn’t come up with trade ideas that even a trade engine designed by EA Sports soundly rejects.
Houston having the advantage of playing in the AFC South is also quickly going away, as Tennessee and Indianapolis have made big waves to improve their rosters in the past few seasons, and they will both be much more competitive this season than they were a year ago, in the Titans case from the start of the season on and not after a change at quarterback.
Deshaun Watson is a Top 10 quarterback when healthy, but there are so many holes on this Texans team and a man in charge of the roster personnel that frankly has no business being there.
We believe ABC/ESPN is going to have to find a new city to kick off the Wild Card Weekend, as the Texans will stay home for the playoffs and potentially bring on some heavy changes to the team entering the 2021 season.
Texans 2020 Projection: 7-9, 3rd place AFC South
Texans 2020 Betting Preview
The cool thing about making Texans futures bets is even if it looks like a loser, you can probably head to PropSwap and trade the ticket to Bill O’Brien for something of much greater value. Here are our favorite Texans related bets entering the 2020 NFL Season.
- Texans UNDER 7.5 Wins — (-115) at DraftKings Sportsbook
We love Deshaun Watson, he’s a special quarterback. But this Houston team just has too many holes, a gaudy schedule, and a GM in charge that’s over his head. It wouldn’t shock us if Watson willed this team back to an 8-8 season, but he’s going to need a lot of help to do so. We think Houston falls short of the .500 mark and will take the under 7.5 wins here.
- Brandin Cooks OVER 850.5 Yards Receiving — (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Essentially this is a bet that Cooks plays most of the season. When he’s been healthy, he’s produced everywhere he’s gone. We will roll the dice on Cooks playing the majority of games for a Houston offense that is likely going to be in several shootouts with all the issues on the defensive side of the ball.
- Texans Defense to Allow Most Points in NFL — (+1400) at DraftKings Sportsbook
The Texans did virtually nothing to improve upon one of the worst defenses in football from a year ago, and now they enter 2020 with the likes of Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Minnesota, and New England on their schedule, in addition to their four games against Tennessee and Indianapolis. In other words, they may hemorrhage a lot of points yet again, and at 14-to-1 this is worth a crack even if the Jaguars are doing everything they can to not compete in 2020.