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The New Normal

The Texans start operating like a bona fide NFL team.

The New Normal

Be sure to check out our interactive game card to be update each Monday with results and analysis.

When news got out in late July that the Texans had signed cornerback Johnathan Joseph and safety Danieal Manning, football fans in the city of Houston got giddy.

For those who have followed this franchise since inception, signing a near elite-level cornerback and a solid veteran safety within a few hours of one another made for a benchmark day.

Arian Foster's hamstring will need to be full strength if the Texans are going to run to daylight.
Aaron M. Sprecher
Arian Foster's hamstring will need to be full strength if the Texans are going to run to daylight.
Mario Williams's becoming more comfortable at linebacker would make everyone happy.
Aaron M. Sprecher
Mario Williams's becoming more comfortable at linebacker would make everyone happy.
Behind Wade Phillips's seemingly blank stare is a delicate genius.
Aaron M. Sprecher
Behind Wade Phillips's seemingly blank stare is a delicate genius.
4,000 yards is fine, but Texan fans will only be fist pumping if Schaub leads them to the playoffs.
Aaron M. Sprecher
4,000 yards is fine, but Texan fans will only be fist pumping if Schaub leads them to the playoffs.

The Texans have been so deficient in accomplishing mundane, obvious tasks in free agency and hiring that other NFL teams' normal is the Texans' extraordinary. Recruiting and signing big-name free agents to fill needs, drafting players who are known quantities that also fill specific needs, hiring coaches outside of the head coach's circle of drinking buddies — these are things that real NFL teams do.

In 2011, the Texans finally appear to be acting like a real NFL team.

If the Texans make a move from mediocre also-ran to playoff team this season, it will be the hiring of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and the infusion of his ideas and his personnel expertise that will be the game changer, to the point where it should piss off most Texan fans that this didn't happen a lot sooner.

What, you mean hiring an experienced, respected defensive coordinator to steer that side of the ball is a better idea than promoting one of your inexperienced buddies from within? No way!

Former defensive coordinator Frank Bush was awful in every way, and his ineptitude only served to make Kubiak look like an idiot for hiring him and an even bigger idiot for sticking up for him. At one point during the 2010 season, after another opposing offense hung 30 points on the Texans, Kubiak made the mistake at his Monday press conference of saying he "believed in Frank Bush," which was laughable because at that point not even Frank Bush could possibly believe in Frank Bush.

(This statement, by the way, spawned one of the greatest Twitter hashtags in the history of social media — #Kubiakbelievesinyou. Among the items tweeters had Kubiak believing in were New Orleans's levees, Charles Barkley's golf swing, jorts and Jar Jar Binks.)

You get the point — Frank Bush sucked.

They say that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and while I'm far from the only one who overthrew the target on expectations for 2010, I am willing to admit that the reasons the Texans didn't get to the playoffs were actually sitting right there in front of us during training camp last season.

Inexperience in the secondary, Brian Cushing's four-game suspension to start the season, the subsequent shell of Brian Cushing that played in his place the remaining 12 games, inconsistency on offense, and pedestrian return units on special teams. None of these concerns were unknown when 2010 started.

So at the very least, if my playoff prediction gets derailed this season, let it be known that (short of an injury to Matt Schaub) it will probably be because of one of the following:

1. Arian Foster's hamstring. Because this article is going in the print edition of the Houston Press, I have to submit it to editors a good week before it hits newsstands. Seriously, how in the hell do I account for Foster's hamstring for the next week (and beyond) when making a prediction? The team says he will be fine, but we're talking about a muscle that through a month of training camp has been about as predictable as a coked-up Charlie Sheen. By the time this hits newsstands, Foster's hamstring could be back to full strength. Or it could still be nagging him. Or it may have moved in with two porn star hamstrings and announced that it's going on tour to do hamstring stand-up comedy. There's no way to know.

(NOTE: To my unpredictability point above, in the time between submitting the article for print and your reading this, Foster actually tweeted out a picture of his strained hamstring to his 70,000 Twitter followers. So the Sheen analogy strengthens. I can't wait until Foster's hamstring has its own Twitter account, gets 2,000,000 followers in the first week and starts tweeting out pictures of Bree Olson's hamstring.)

2. Depth on the offensive line. Throughout training camp, the first unit of the offensive line has looked fantastic. Duane Brown, Eric Winston, Wade Smith, Mike Brisiel and Chris Myers are as solid a five-man unit as you'll find, especially in the scheme Kubiak likes to run. The problem is that after those five, they're dropping like flies. The second and third units have been hit hard with injuries. Add to that the general talent drop-off between the first and second units, and you realize how precarious things are in the trenches.

3. Defensive comfort level. Yes, the Texans appear to have solved some of the secondary issues (or at the very least, they've thrown a lot of money at the problem). They also appear to have a much better idea of what to look for in the draft to fit the system going forward. In short, the newcomers on defense are fine. The problems are with the holdovers. Each of these guys has been to at least one Pro Bowl fairly recently, and each of them comes with concerns:

Mario Williams is now playing outside linebacker and looks about as comfortable as an elephant on roller skates. When he's been at his best, not surprisingly, is when he's been asked to just make a beeline for the quarterback. When he's been at his worst is when he's been asked to do, well, "linebacker" things like cover and run in space. Right about now, he's basically a much, much bigger version of Santiago from Season 2 of Friday Night Lights (minus the felonies and thug-life homeboys).

Brian Cushing still looks like the non-superhero version that we saw last year. If rookie-year Cushing was Superman, this 2010-11 edition of Cushing is Clark Kent, the version that got the shit kicked out of him in the diner by that trucker after he gave up his super powers to marry Lois Lane. (This is still the most far-fetched storyline in the history of modern film, by the way — a man giving up every super power under the sun to marry Margot Kidder. This made me root for Zod in Superman II. I'm just sayin'.)

DeMeco Ryans is coming off of a gruesome Achilles injury that ended his 2010 season after six games. If you're looking for little indicators of how ready he is to go full bore in 2011, just know that one of the big topics out at training camp this summer has been the fact that DeMeco's right calf looks like it belongs to an NFL linebacker (which is good) and his left calf looks like it belongs to a ­Kenyan marathon runner (not so good). I'd like to say that we've seen him play this preseason and not to worry, but we've seen very little of him during 2011 training camp because of an elbow injury.

So you have all of these issues along with the usual things that come up during the course of an NFL regular season (suspensions, injuries, bad decisions), and yet I think I believe in the Texans.

Maybe Kubiak is rubbing off on me.

The Pendergast Method

So now it's on to the 2011 season. If indeed the Texans are going to make the playoffs, I will once again go with 10-6 as the target. Unlike last season, when the schedule included five of the six teams that the Texans had never beaten in their then eight years in the league, this year's schedule sets up much easier. It has only one of those teams (Baltimore in Week 6), and includes out-of-division games with the Raiders, Dolphins, Browns, Bengals and Panthers.

In short, if the Texans were a college team, their strength of schedule would be somewhere around that of a solid ACC team.

Being a Texans believer in 2010 involved a lot of blind faith, but there was logic in picking them to go 10-6 because you could see a progression. 6-10, 8-8, 8-8, 9-7. 10-6 was indeed the next logical stop. But somewhere between Seyi Ajirotutu morphing into John Jefferson and Mike Thomas catching that Hail Mary, logic went to go get a beer. And one beer turned into several beers which turned into 6-10. 

So now the Texans have put me back in a spot where calling for 10-6 in 2011 looks even more myopic. As General Hummel said to the American government in The Rock, "Damn you, for forcing me into this position, Kubiak!" (Suspend disbelief for a second that Gary Kubiak is the President of the United States. Thank you.)

In breaking down the schedule, we reprise a little thing that I call the Pendergast Bucket Theory, wherein I categorize each game, putting them into three probability buckets. They are as follows:

Must wins: These are games that, to have any chance of making the playoffs, the Texans have to cash in on. Worst case, you can have one mulligan. (It's the NFL. Bad weeks happen. That needs to be factored in.) But lose two of these games, and you're probably not a double-digit win team.

Coin flippers: Games that could go either way and will likely be played within one score. To make the playoffs, the Texans need to win more of these games than they lose.

Steals: Road games in which the Texans will likely be an underdog of five points or more against teams that they've historically struggled with (Indianapolis), match up poorly with (Baltimore) or that they have to play in a hostile environment in potentially adverse conditions (New Orleans, although the only adverse condition would be the smell of vomit from the French Quarter). If you're going to be a playoff team, as a rule, none of your home games can qualify for this category, and you probably need to win at least one of these along the way.

So where do the games on the 2011 slate stack up in the Pendergast Bucket Theory? Well, I'll tell you:

Must wins, 7: vs Oakland, vs Jacksonville, vs Cleveland, @ Jacksonville, @ Cincinnati, vs Carolina, vs Tennessee

Coin flippers, 6: vs Indianapolis, @ Miami, vs Pittsburgh, @ Tennessee, @ Tampa Bay, vs Atlanta

Steals, 3: @ New Orleans, @ Baltimore, @ Indianapolis

As a point of reference, how did the Pendergast Bucket Theory fare in 2010? Well, in terms of a gauge for what went wrong, it wasn't bad. Here's where I slotted the games on last year's schedule before the season started:

2010 Must wins, 6: @ Oakland, vs New York Giants, vs Kansas City, vs Tennessee, @ Denver, vs Jacksonville

2010 Coin flippers, 7: vs Indianapolis, @ Washington, vs Dallas, vs San Diego, @ Jacksonville, vs Baltimore, @ Tennessee

2010 Steals, 3: @ Indianapolis, @ New York Jets, @ Philadelphia

So in a season where they needed to win five of the "Must wins," four of the "Coin flippers" and steal one win, they went as follows:

2010 Must wins: 4-2

2010 Coin flippers: 2-5

2010 Steals: 0-3

So they were deficient in every single category. That's how you get to be 6-10.

Onward we go...

GAME BY GAME

Sunday, September 11 — vs Indianapolis

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Perhaps in a cruel joke from the schedule maker, the Texans not only open with the same opponent as they did last season, but it's a repeat of the only truly complete game the team played all year. (Yes, the Texans actually peaked on September 12 in 2010.) It's like your buddy in high school who got no chicks his entire life, miraculously dated the hottest cheerleader for like a week and then went back to getting no chicks. (I had a friend who this happened to in high school. And no, it wasn't me.) Naturally, you and your boys remind him of his return to inadequacy by hanging pictures of her in his locker every day. It almost feels like the schedule maker is intentionally reminding the Texans of their 2010 fiasco. "Hey guys, remember that ONE good game you played all of last year?" I have no idea how all that maps to the Texans winning other than that they've seen this scenario before. Oh, and Peyton Manning appears to be unlikely to play as the nerves continue to regenerate in his neck. That matters.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: First of all, the Texans only lose this game if Manning plays. If a cobweb-covered Kerry Collins starts this game, you could put orange cones on the field in place of defensive backs — the Texans won't lose. (Truth be told, an orange cone with a cutout of Kareem Jackson's face stapled to it would've been an upgrade last season over the actual Kareem.) But if Manning plays, and the defense isn't improved, and Arian Foster is running like Fred Sanford with that hamstring by the third quarter. Well...

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -8.5 (-3 if Manning were probable)

PREDICTION: Texans 27, Colts 20

BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER (with MUST WIN status if and when Manning is announced as being OUT)
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Sunday, September 18 — at Miami

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: They've played the Dolphins pretty tough the last few years, and any time Chad Henne is prominently involved, it's good to be on the side that doesn't have him. Seriously, there's an outside shot that the Texans could catch Kerry Collins and Chad Henne out of the gate, which is like being in a spelling bee and being asked to spell "cat" and "dog" as your first two words.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Letdown factor a week after the Colts game is high, although the Dolphins open the season against a rival of their own in the Patriots, so it probably evens out. And rogue Miami booster Nevin Shapiro is behind bars, so no chance of the roughly 30 former Hurricanes on the Texans roster winding up on South Beach. Um, so turnovers, I guess, would be a way they could lose.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Miami -1

PREDICTION: Texans 23, Dolphins 19

BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER
_____________________

Sunday, September 25 — at New Orleans

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: If they come out of the gates 2-0, the Texans will be riding some serious momentum, and a win in New Orleans to go to 3-0 for the first time in franchise history would take the Texans into a different stratosphere of The Conversation (my proper noun for the ongoing discussion of relevancy). For the first time ever, the team would feel special.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Well, they've never been three games over .500 in franchise history. Ever. Why would 2011 be any different? Also, there's this guy named Drew Brees, which means after potentially playing against Collins (holding out hope) and Henne in Weeks 1 and 2, it will feel like the Texans are on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and going straight from the $100 and $200 questions to the million-dollar question. With Kareem Jackson as their only lifeline.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Saints -5

PREDICTION: Saints 31, Texans 24

BUCKET RATING: STEAL
_____________________

Sunday, October 2 — vs Pittsburgh

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: The Texans have always struggled against 3-4 defense teams, but now seeing 3-4 looks in practice every day, they'll be better equipped to handle what the Steelers are throwing at them. Plus, I'm not buying this whole Ben Roethlisberger being a married good guy thing. The time it takes to wash off the stain of being "that guy" (and by "that guy" I mean "doing tequila shots off chicks' stomachs then cornering them in the bathroom" guy) is at least three years.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Maybe it's not so much the 3-4 thing with the Steelers as it is the "smack you in the mouth, pie-face you into the corner and make you call them your daddy" thing. In fact, it's probably more that.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Pittsburgh -2.5

PREDICTION: Steelers 23, Texans 13

BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER
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Sunday, October 9 — vs Oakland

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Because you can set your watch to Raider ineptitude and buffoonery. When wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the combine a couple years ago, it became a lock the Raiders would take him. (They did.) When Terrelle Pryor announced he was going pro, character baggage and all, the Raiders were on everyone's short list. (They took him.) Fans getting into brawls, Al Davis growing new lesions on his head, it's all so easy. So when I say I know what will happen for Oakland in a road game against a good team, I just know. They're the Raiders.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Um, let's not forget that as shitty as the Raiders appear and feel and smell, they were 8-8 last season, two games better than the Texans.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -6.5

PREDICTION: Texans 31, Raiders 13

BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN
_____________________

Sunday, October 16 — at Baltimore

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: The one area of the Texans that really does feel improved is the pass rush, and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (despite getting upper QB echelon love) can be flustered into mistakes.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Because Ray Lewis is frightening and the Texans appear to be, at times, easily frightened. Oh, also, Ray Rice.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Baltimore -6

PREDICTION: Texans 17, Ravens 14

BUCKET RATING: STEAL
_____________________

Sunday, October 23 — at Tennessee

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Because this will be Week 7, which means Matt Hasselbeck will be at least two weeks into his stint on injured reserve. This would mean Jake Locker at quarterback. I actually sit around some days expecting a Jake Locker pass to sail through my window. Not. Very. Accurate.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE:  Because I'm just not ready to say this Texans team is a 5-2 team with that schedule. Sometimes it's not the physical games but instead the accumulation of several physical games that can be a pitfall. The Texans play a six-week gauntlet to open the season. It has to catch up with them. Picking them to lose isn't so much a Titans thing as it is a "bound to happen at some point" thing.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -2

PREDICTION: Titans 21, Texans 20

BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER
_____________________

Sunday, October 30 — vs Jacksonville

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: For the same reasons the Texans might lose to the Titans in Week 7, I think they will beat the Jags in Week 8. Go look at Jacksonville's schedule. The two weeks before they come to Houston, they play at Pittsburgh and host Baltimore. There's a decent chance the Jags could come out of those games looking like Andy Dufresne after his first year in the Shawshank when the "Sistas" would regularly, um, "get ahold" of him. Oh, also, Jacksonville is not good.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Little known fact: Matt Schaub throws a kick-ass Halloween party every year for the players. Perhaps the Texans are collectively still hungover from the party. Other than that (and maybe the Texans turning the ball over four or five times), I'm struggling to come up with a reason.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -6

PREDICTION: Texans 34, Jaguars 20

BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN
_____________________

Sunday, November 6 — vs Cleveland

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Because THIS will be the week they finally break through and go three games over .500 for the first time in franchise history! It's a winnable game against a young quarterback. It's time to take it up a notch. BAM!

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Have you looked at the Browns' schedule? (If the answer is yes, and you're not a Browns fan, then clearly you have a gambling problem.) Here are their first seven games: vs Cincinnati, at Indianapolis, vs Miami, vs Tennessee, at Oakland, vs Seattle, at San Francisco. The only thing missing is a couple cash grabs against some Sun Belt Conference schools. So with a rusty Peyton Manning in Week 2 and a bye week before the Oakland game, the Browns could easily come into Reliant at 5-2 with some confidence, and then who knows what?

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -7

PREDICTION: Texans 26, Browns 13

BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN
_____________________

Sunday, November 13 — at Tampa Bay

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Other than a Week 17 win over the Saints, the Buccaneers didn't beat a single team that finished last season over .500. Also, the Texans fall in between road games against the Saints and the Packers on the Bucs schedule. A classic "sandwich" situation, for "you" degenerates.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Maybe there's something to be said for learning how to win, even if it was a bunch of close games against the NFL's Pop Warner division. Tampa Bay has a ton of young talent on the defensive side of the ball and Josh Freeman is ripe to make "the leap" this season.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Bucs -3

PREDICTION: Bucs 23, Texans 21

BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER
_____________________

Sunday, November 20 — BYE

BYE WEEK PREDICTION: Kareem Jackson decides to combine his three greatest loves — cockfighting, porn conventions and Alabama football — by co-promoting cockfights at a porn convention in the Dominican with Julio Jones. In related news, this will be the closest that Jackson gets to a wide receiver all season.
_____________________

Sunday, November 27 — at Jacksonville

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: They're coming off a bye week and heading into a very manageable part of the schedule, with a Thursday night road game in Week 16 against the Colts in Indianapolis the only game that you don't feel great about. There's a decent chance that by this point in the season, Jags head coach Jack Del Rio could look like Bud Fox in Wall Street right after he found out Gordon Gekko was going to dismantle Blue Star Airlines. Rumpled hair, smoky room, shirt unbuttoned, no sleep, empty pizza boxes, drinking whiskey straight from the bottle while he screams at David Garrard, "Step out that door, and I'm changing the locks!"

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Thanksgiving food poisoning. Maybe? Also, they routinely lose in Jacksonville regardless of how good or bad the Jags are.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -1

PREDICTION: Texans 28, Jags 24

BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN
_____________________

Sunday, December 4 — vs Atlanta

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: If the season is setting up the way I think it will, then this has the potential to be the next in a long line of regular season games that are the "most important game in the history of the franchise." How can the team, the city...how can you NOT get excited about this?

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Because their record in "most important game in the history of the franchise" is roughly 0-25.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Falcons -2.5

PREDICTION: Falcons 34, Texans 24

BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER
_____________________

Sunday, December 11 — at Cincinnati

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Nice of the league to schedule two cupcakes during the height of the Christmas shopping season. Merry Christmas.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Unless they make all 53 Texans sign a lease with Bengals running back Cedric Benson the night before the game, they won't lose. (Back story: During the lockout, Cedric Benson was arrested for assaulting the ever loving shit out of a former roommate, whose mug shot after the incident looked like Apollo Creed after round one of the Ivan Drago fight. Nice, huh?)

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -6

PREDICTION: Texans 38, Bengals 10

BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN
_____________________

Sunday, December 18 — vs Carolina

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Like I said, nice of the league to schedule two cupcakes during the height of the Christmas shopping season. Merry Christmas.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: With traffic near the Galleria, there's at least an outside shot some of the players may get trapped at the mall while shopping. I guess that could happen.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -8.5

PREDICTION: Texans 31, Panthers 17

BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN
_____________________

Thursday, December 22 — at Indianapolis

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Because in a game that could set up as a de facto AFC South championship game, Gary Kubiak will come in with a fire-and-brimstone speech worthy of the motivational speaking circuit. I'm telling you, a roomful of men being called "kids" will never be more amped up about "goin' back and looking at the film" and "workin' at gettin' better." They will battle, they will fight, they will battlefight. I hope Texans TV is there to capture it.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: You know how when you go from playing beginner level on Madden to all of a sudden playing All-Madden level and the game is so sped up it feels like God altered the space-time continuum? Well, try playing Peyton Manning four days after playing Cam Newton.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Colts -3

PREDICTION: Colts 27, Texans 21

BUCKET RATING: STEAL
_____________________

Sunday, January 1 — vs Tennessee

WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Death, taxes and Gary Kubiak winning the final home game every season. 5-0 during Kubiak's tenure. Only this time it could mean something.

WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Because this time it could mean something.

SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -6.5

PREDICTION: Texans 27, Titans 14

BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN
_____________________

MUST WIN (7) — vs Oakland, vs Jacksonville, vs Cleveland, @ Jacksonville, @ Cincinnati, vs Carolina, vs Tennessee

I have the Texans clean-sweeping the board on these must-win games, which stands to reason because generally Kubiak-coached teams have been pretty good at beating teams they're supposed to. Also, it's fortunate they didn't cash in their mulligan because...

COIN FLIPPERS (6) — vs Indianapolis, @ Miami, vs Pittsburgh, @ Tennessee, @ Tampa Bay, vs Atlanta ...I have them going 2-4 in coin-flipper games. This means they'll need to do what they didn't do last season — win a "steal" game.

STEALS (3) — @ New Orleans, @ Baltimore, @ Indianapolis

And bingo! I have them 1-2 in these three games. Essentially, the "steal" game in Baltimore in Week 6 is the swing game between 9-7 and 10-6. It's the difference between no playoffs for a decade and Texans football in mid-January.

Did I learn my lesson last year? Apparently not. We're going all in again on 10-6! I believe in you, Texans. But more importantly, #Kubiakbelievesinyou.

YOUR BEST BETS

WASHINGTON REDSKINS UNDER 6½ wins (-165) — Either Rex Grossman or John Beck will be a starting quarterback in the league this season, and will be doing it in a division that includes a Super Bowl favorite and two regular playoff contenders. If that doesn't convince you to climb aboard that "UNDER," then you can't be convinced.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ers UNDER 7½ wins (-115) — After watching the Texans preseason game with the Niners, I am of firm belief that Jim Harbaugh is tanking the 2011 season so he can get the first overall pick in the draft and be reunited with his Stanford protégé Andrew Luck. And I would even go so far as to say his taking Nevada's Colin Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 draft is a front so he can say he wasn't tanking this season. "Why would I intentionally put a bad team out there to get a quarterback? I mean, I drafted Colin Kaepernick last season!" Which is like saying, "Why would I want Megan Fox when I'm perfectly happy with Sarah Jessica Parker?"

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS UNDER 11½ wins (-115) — This isn't based on anything ultra-particular other than I have a really hard time betting on teams to go 12-4, so why not go opposite? Especially on a team that is not the best defensively (25th in yards allowed) and that's playing a first-place schedule. (The Pats' first six games include three away games and home games with the Chargers, Jets and Cowboys. Not easy.)

DENVER BRONCOS OVER 5½ wins (-130) — It's a new day in Denver, and for gamblers, thankfully this number is based on last year's wretched team that finished with the second overall pick in the draft. The whole Josh McDaniels "Wunderkind" thing seemed to work out for a while. If you remember, the Broncos started out the McDaniels Era 6-0, and it felt like the first 90 minutes of Big, when Josh Baskin was running a billion-dollar toy company as a 13-year-old kid. Unfortunately, in this Broncos version of Big, instead of inventing a cool interactive comic book, Baskin invents a football action figure that circumcises babies and takes 30 seconds to throw the ball (Call it "Super Tebow"). It's the John Fox show in 2011, and don't look now but the Broncos open with home games against the Raiders and Bengals and a road trip to Tennessee. 3-0 is not out of the question.

KEVIN KOLB, Leading league in passing yards (25/1) — The Cardinals are all in on Kolb to the tune of six years and $63 million. Not coincidentally, they're also all in on Larry Fitzgerald to the even sweeter tune of eight years, $120 million, which means that Kolb isn't getting paid to hand the ball off to Beanie Wells. At 25/1, this is a much better value than some of the heavyweights on the board. (By the way, as bad as the NFC West is, if the Cardinals don't win that division with a healthy Kolb, is he automatically overpaid? Unless the Rams, 49ers and Seahawks become above-.500 teams all of a sudden, I say yes.)

LeGARRETTE BLOUNT, Leading league in rushing yards (18/1) — Do I think LeGarrette Blount will win the rushing title? I'm doubtful. But at 18/1, do I like the value? Yes, yes I do. (Am I annoyed by the way I keep asking myself rhetorical questions? Sure, sure I am.) Go back and look at Blount's 2010 season. He rushed for just over 1,000 yards, averaged five yards a carry and didn't start getting regular carries until Week 7, giving him the most dynamic "second half of a season for a guy who played no ball in the first half of the season" since Jimmy Chitwood carried Hickory High to an Indiana state title in the 1950's. Hard to believe this is the same guy whose career appeared to be over after a sucker punch and one bad night against Boise State in 2009.

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6 comments
HECTEC
HECTEC

I dont think this article was long enough. On a sidenote, David Carr's wife attends Texans preseason games? with Dan Pastorini?

todd DeMoss
todd DeMoss

as the Lord can attest, from what I witnessed last night, Olsen's hamstring was the least of her worries in terms of what may torn, indeed.

The OSD
The OSD

Is it just me, or does the picture of Mario look like he is a 12 year old girl who just won tickets to a Justin Bieber concert? Great read Sean. Nice pull with the Superman II diner scene.

PeterJakes
PeterJakes

In all fairness, Bree Olson has a very nice hamstring.

Jared
Jared

The annual preseason hype around the Texans might be getting old for some, but I say this: at least there IS legitimate reason to be hyped again, and coming off a 6-10 disaster, that wouldn't normally be easy to say. And unlike last year's "blind faith" experiment, the hype is MUCH more deserved this time around. It's just a matter of taking the sense of urgency that was blatantly obvious this offseason and translating it to the field. This team has 11-12 win talent, but still has a lot to prove.

Of all the must-wins I see them needing the mulligan on, I think @JAX is the one. In fact, I'd switch the Tennessee road game with the Jacksonville road game on the list of coin-flippers. The Titans are better (way better), but EverBank is a haunted house from the deepest bowels of hell from which the Texans never seem to get out alive. And Jake Locker isn't as good as Blaine Gabbert.

I think they win 3 of the coin-flippers, and I do think they'll get a steal or two. Not necessarily because I think they're better than those teams, but even last year, when they lost all 3 steal games, they could have easily won two of them were it not for the horrendous pass defense, which is largely fixed. 11-5 is my overall prediction (with a few bottles of Jack stashed in a special palce just in case).

Early Cuyler
Early Cuyler

If Foster stays healthy, and Kubiak actually uses him for a whole game, I think this may be the year we finally make it to the playoffs. I think everyone knows Kubiak did a horrible job of game management last year. That being said, I have to think there is some kind of personal issue going on between he and Foster. Like the way Tate looked in preseason as a second option.

By the way, did anyone notice if Dan Pastorini is still sitting next to David Carr's wife during every preseason game? I probably would have played poorly here like Carr if I saw that notorious p-hound sitting next to my wife every time I took to the field.

 
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