Stop me if you've heard this before -- I am very optimistic about the Houston Texans' upcoming season.
I know, I know. Crazy, huh?
Last year, in this very space, I called for a 10-6 season in 2010 (a logical if not glacially moving projection considering the three previous seasons went 8-8, 8-8, and 9-7), and naturally when the season started going sideways, many readers and listeners were quick to remind me that I personally cursed our hometown team.
Mea culpa. My bad. I'm sorry. Oh and get out your tiki statues again, people. It's 2011 preview time.
This preview was simultaneously surreal and moderately difficult to put together this season.
The realization that the difference between 6-10 and 10-6 largely rests on the shoulders of Wade Phillips, who was best known in Dallas for a jolly, docile sideline demeanor that oftentimes made him appear like a fan that won a contest to coach the team for a day (complete with awkward white guy fist pumps galore).
He is now the Texans' defensive coordinator, and with the change in title has gone from punchline to resident genius. To hear Head Coach Gary Kubiak and General Manager Rick Smith fawn over Phillips's working knowledge of the revamped 3-4 defense, you'd think that he carries the scheme around on chiseled stone tablets à la Moses.
The moderately difficult part of writing the preview?
Simply put, Arian Foster's hamstring and Peyton Manning's regenerating nerves in his neck.
Look, we all have a friend or relative who is just not a very good driver, whose track record indicates that when he or she gets behind the wheel of a car, bad things happen a disproportionate number of times compared to the average American driver.
Now imagine this friend going on a road trip where you know all of the cities in which he or she is stopping. And imagine having to write a story about this road trip before he or she leaves. And imagine this story being written the day before he or she leaves and being published a week later. If you know the cities, you can pen the story with fairly pinpoint accuracy and be confident that the story holds up.
There's only one problem -- your friend, the horrible driver, might steamroll a dozen schoolkids in a crosswalk within the first five minutes of the trip. And if they do, your pre-written story of their roadtrip is moot.
Well, Foster's hammie and Manning's neck are basically your friend, the reckless driver. Unpredictable, dangerous, game-changing. When I put fingers to keyboard last week, it appeared that Foster might be questionable for week one and every indication was Manning would play. Now, well, the opposite appears to be happening.
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Fortunately, I left enough wiggle room to still make a valid season prediction. To find out what the prediction is, well, as Andy Dufresne said to Red in The Shawshank Redemption, "If you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further."
Click here to read "The New Normal."
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Yahoo! Sports Radio and 1560 The Game from noon to 3PM CST weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.