Sean Pendergast

Can the Houston Texans Still Hit the Vegas OVER For Win Totals in 2021?

Tyrod Taylor's return is a must for the Texans to win more games this season.
Tyrod Taylor's return is a must for the Texans to win more games this season. Photo by Eric Sauseda
With the way the Houston Texans' 2021 season has gone thus far, it's easy to understand how some of you may have cashed in your NFL chips on 2021, and decided to say "Wake me up when they trade Deshaun Watson," or "Wake me up when the 2022 NFL Draft gets here," two things that might end up happening around the same time, at the rate things are going.

If you count yourselves among those who can put football on the shelf for several months, consider yourselves lucky, because watching the Texans in 2021 has been quite the chore since rookie Davis Mills took over as the starter at quarterback, a five-game stretch with an 0-5 record, and a composite score where the opposition is beating the Texans like a drum, 148-42.

However, some of us don't have the luxury of ignoring the Houston Texans. We either cover them on the radio, or we have an open betting ticket for them to win more than four games. Or in the case of some — OK, ME! — it's both. Yes, I am a radio host, AND a degenerate gambler! Of those two things, I know that I will be covering them on the radio the rest of the season, but can they go get me the five wins I need to crack Vegas' season win total of 4.5 that was posted (and bet on, by me) back in August? They have one already, so in the final 10 games, they need four more.

Let's look at the key factors in somehow, some way, going 4-6 down the stretch and getting me paid!

Will Tyrod Taylor return, and if so, for how long?
When Taylor went down with a hamstring injury in Week 2, the Texans' chances of being a frisky, pesky thorn in the side to actual good football teams went out the window. Suddenly, Davis Mills, he of the 11 total starts IN COLLEGE, was one of 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Mills has engineered four touchdown drives in five starts, three of them against the Patriots and NONE of them on the road. It's been ugly. Fortunately, it appears as though Taylor's return on Sundays is imminent, as he returned to practice this week. Before we get to the schedule, the need for Taylor's availability must be acknowledged. The Texans have NO chance for four more wins as long as Mills is the starting QB.

How difficult is the remaining schedule?
I like to compile a composite power ranking of all 32 NFL teams each week. I have a Google spreadsheet where I take the Power rankings from ESPN, CBS, NFL.com, and SI.com, add them up, average them, and come with a blended power ranking for all 32 NFL teams. SPOILER ALERT — the Texans are 32nd out of 32 teams right now. Here are where their first seven opponents currently rank:

30. JACKSONVILLE
12. CLEVELAND
24. CAROLINA
5. BUFFALO
17. NEW ENGLAND
18. INDIANAPOLIS
1. ARIZONA

So the average ranking of the first seven opponents has been around 15th. Here are the rankings of their final ten opponents:

3. LA RAMS
29. MIAMI
10. TENNESSEE
31. NEW YORK JETS
18. INDIANAPOLIS
22. SEATTLE
30. JACKSONVILLE
9. LA CHARGERS
20. SAN FRANCISCO
10. TENNESSEE

The average opponent in the final 10 games is ranked around 18th, which seems manageable, provided Taylor is your quarterback. Taylor should give the Texans more than a puncher's chance against the Dolphins, Jets, Jaguars, and possibly Seahawks, if Russell Wilson is still injured.

How active will the Texans be at the trade deadline next week?
There are two more caveats on the Texans hitting 5-win pay dirt, and yes, typing the words "5-win pay dirt" is massively depressing. First, how many frontline players get moved before next Tuesday's trade deadline. Honestly, the most likely players to get moved are either inactive (Watson), or underperforming (Zach Cunningham, Jordan Akins, any of the veteran running backs), so it shouldn't affect things too much. If they move on from Brandin Cooks, Laremy Tunsil, or they think out already thin positions like safety and cornerback, then things get awfully dicey.

Is there a point where the player effort and management decisions LOOK LIKE tanking?
The other mitigating factor is just the vibe in the locker room. David Culley has spent the season doing the one thing he was brought in to do — keep a bright, sunny face on this disaster of a roster, and debacle of a season. He's done that, but human nature sets in, and at some point, you have to wonder when the delusional positivity makes the players eventually say "Why the hell are we doing this?" Also, if management starts dictating the use of younger players to get evaluations on them, that would diminish the odds of getting more wins, as well.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast