I'll caveat everything I am about to discuss in this post with two simple words — it's May. Indeed, it's extremely early in the NFL's offseason (rookie minicamp starts tomorrow, for God's sakes!), but dammit, in Houston, we had to endure a 4-12 season last year, so I am going to latch onto any bit of hope or good news I can find. Stories like the one I am about to share are what will sustain us as a city until Deshaun Watson can restart unleashing hell, fire, and brimstone on the NFL in September!
So, here we go — Bovada released their latest, post-draft odds on teams winning the AFC and the NFC. Brace yourselves, Texans fans. Expectations are about to rise:
New England Patriots: 9-4
Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-2
Houston Texans: 10-1
Jacksonville Jaguars: 11-1
Kansas City Chiefs: 14-1
Baltimore Ravens: 15-1
Denver Broncos: 15-1
Oakland Raiders: 15-1
Tennessee Titans: 16-1
Indianapolis Colts: 30-1
Cincinnati Bengals: 35-1
Cleveland Browns: 35-1
Buffalo Bills: 40-1
Miami Dolphins: 50-1
New York Jets: 65-1
The obvious question that many have, including a vast majority of football fans with no rooting interest in the Texans, understandably have is "WHY?!?! Why are the Texans the 'show horse' in the AFC title odds right now behind the Patriots and the Steelers?"
Well, here are a few reasons:
4. The schedule
Let's start with the empirical part — the fact of the matter regarding the Texans' 2018 schedule is that it shapes up to be pretty damn easy. They have games on the schedule against all six of the teams who were picking in the top six of last month's draft. Additionally, the schedule itself — not just the opponents, but the time and place of the games — is one of the most friendly I can remember in my time covering the team. Most notably, they only have three prime time games, and they're all at home.
As for the actual opponents themselves, I think this graphic from Warren Sharp does a good job of illustrating the expectations for the Texans on a game by game basis:
In plain English, what is being depicted in the above graphic is this — the Texans are forecasted to be underdogs in only four of their first 15 games. (FYI — oddsmakers normally don't put long term odds out on the 16th and final game of the season, because teams often rest or bench players.) This is essentially a forecast for the Texans to win at least nine or ten games. Which should be enough to win....
3. The AFC South
.... the AFC SOUTH! Yes, I think the Jacksonville Jaguars will backslide a bit this season (Blake Bortles LIVES.), and yes, I do not think very highly of Marcus Mariota in Tennessee. (Mike Vrabel as a head coach is also a gigantic wild card.) Also, until I see Andrew Luck actually throw a football, the Colts are back burnered. In other words, this is an imminently winnable division!
2. The return of J.J. Watt
If we are judging comebacks by golf swings.....
.@HoustonTexans DE @JJWatt tees off to start the 16th Annual Houston Texans Charity Golf Classic presented by BMW at River Oaks Country Club.— Texans PR (@TexansPR) May 7, 2018
The event has raised nearly $5 million for the Houston Texans Foundation since its inception in 2002 pic.twitter.com/7EfLr3NHV3
.... then shine up another Defensive Player of the Year trophy! Now, if we are being truthful, none of us know what J.J. Watt is going to be coming off of a severe leg injury and two back surgeries. (I hurt just typing this paragraph, by the way.) Right now, if the football gods handed me a contract for Watt to be 75 percent of Peak J.J. Watt, I'd sign it on the spot.
1. Deshaun Watson, football demigod
Watson's return is the variable shaping nearly ALL of the outside-of-Houston assessment of the Texans. In short, the league, the media, and his peers love Deshaun Watson. So, with that said, I'll just leave this video right here....
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For what it's worth, here are the NFC odds:
Philadelphia Eagles: 5-1
Green Bay Packers: 6-1
Los Angeles Rams: 7-1
Minnesota Vikings: 7-1
New Orleans Saints: 10-1
Atlanta Falcons: 11-1
San Francisco 49ers: 11-1
Carolina Panthers: 14-1
Dallas Cowboys: 14-1
Detroit Lions: 20-1
Seattle Seahawks: 20-1
New York Giants: 22-1
Washington Redskins: 26-1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 28-1
Arizona Cardinals: 40-1
Chicago Bears: 40-1
Again, a reminder — IT'S MAY. (But the football season can't get here soon enough.)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.