2014 Season Review:
Last year, the Texans rebounded from a brutal 2013 season in which they lost 14 straight games and earned the first overall pick in 2014. They selected Jadeveon Clowney with this pick, but he only played 146 snaps in 2014 due to injury concerns.
2014 was former Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien's first year as an NFL head coach. The quarterback position was a point of weakness all season and held back a team that was relatively strong elsewhere. Former Bengal Ryan Fitzpatrick started most of the year for the Texans, while Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum, and Tom Savage also received playing time. The team finished the season ranked 24th in passing yards per game (209.5), 5th in rushing yards per game (135.1), and 7th in points allowed per game (19.2).
Defensive lineman J.J. Watt earned his second Defensive Player of the Year honors in three years. Watt racked up 21 sacks, 44 QB hits, 54 QB hurries, 61 stops, and 10 batted passes. Running back Arian Foster missed three games due to injury but still managed to amass 15 total touchdowns and 1,573 all-purpose yards. His 95.8 yards per carry ranked second in the league only to DeMarco Murray.
During the last seven games of the season, the Texans lost only two games (to the Bengals and the Indianapolis Colts). They finished the season 9-7, just barely missing the playoffs. With one more win, they would have matched the win total of the Baltimore Ravens and the Texans would have held the tiebreaker.
2015 Season Outlook:
In the offseason, the Texans could not find a trade suitor for Andre Johnson, and acquiesced to Johnson's demands that he be cut if he couldn't be traded. The Texans will use DeAndre Hopkins, a promising young talent, as their main receiving threat. Houston's other main offensive weapon, Arian Foster, suffered a groin injury and had surgery in early August. He was initially projected to miss a large chunk of the season, but recent reports have been more optimistic. With no setbacks in his rehabilitation, Foster would be targeting late September as his return date. Alfred Blue, Chris Polk, and Jonathan Grimes are competing for the snaps while Foster is sidelined.
In free agency, Bill O'Brien brought in another former backup to Tom Brady by signing Brian Hoyer. A few weeks ago, O'Brien announced that Hoyer had earned the starting job over Ryan Mallett due to consistency and trust with Hoyer. The team also signed Vince Wilfork in free agency to shore up their interior defensive line.
Last week, Jadeveon Clowney returned to practice for the first time in 10 months. Clowney was rehabbing from the same microfracture surgery that Vontaze Burfict had. Clowney had his surgery one month before Burfict.
Week 10: November 16th on Monday Night Football, 8:30 p.m. EST
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Odds of Bengals Victory:
55%: Arian Foster's health will play a big role in whether or not the Bengals win this game. Without Foster, the Texans do not have enough offensive weaponry. Their defense is strong, but not among the best in the league. Their team makeup generally matches with the the Bengals fairly evenly if Foster is healthy. This is a primetime game, so it's hard to put much of a vote of confidence in the Bengals.
The Texans' playoff hopes took a major shot with the Arian Foster injury news. They have a good-but-not-great roster that should put them in contention for one of the wildcard spots. If Hoyer or Mallett can steady the ship and limit mistakes (that's a big 'if') the team could push for contention late in the year, with Foster healthy.