On Sep. 10, the Texans started their season off with an atrocious loss. The division rival Jacksonville Jaguars trounced the Texans in all phases of the game in a 29-7 defeat. However, during this game, Head Coach Bill O’Brien made a significant change at halftime that has dramatically improved the outlook of the season. He pulled starting quarterback Tom Savage and called upon rookie first round pick, Deshaun Watson, to lead the team. Over a month later, Watson is working miracles to make up for their initial loss.
Since Watson’s first start, the Texans have a record of 3-4. He won that first start 13-9 in Cincinnati against the Bengals, highlighted by his electrifying 49-yard touchdown scramble. The proceeding week, the rookie Watson had the opportunity to compete with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, the five-time Superbowl Champion. With touchdowns going back and forth all day, this game was a rollercoaster, but concluded with a 36-33 loss.
In week four, Watson and the Texans truly burst onto the scene, demolishing the division rival Tennessee Titans with a score of 57-14. This game broke the Texans’ franchise record for the highest number of points scored in a game. Watson tied the NFL rookie quarterback record for touchdowns in a single game with five that day: four through the air and one rushing touchdown. The next week, the Texans hosted the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football and were defeated in another high scoring game of 42-34. Watson threw five touchdowns for the second week in a row, tying the rookie record once again. After two more remarkable games against the Browns as well as the Seahawks with their usually impenetrable defense, Watson has the looks of an incredibly promising young quarterback.
Drafting Watson in April has caused an immediate boost to the Texans’ offensive productivity. In the 2016 season, the Texans offense ranked 28th in the NFL in points scored per game with 17.4. Seven games into the 2017 season, the offense led by Deshaun Watson is currently first in the NFL in points per game, averaging 30.7. Watson has already shattered the record for the most passing touchdowns in NFL history for a rookie quarterback in his first seven games, with 19. Watson starting off his professional career “with a bang” would be an understatement, as he has been breaking records on a regular basis within his first half-season.
On a less positive note, injuries have taken a significant toll on the Texans this season, especially on the defensive side. In their week five game against the Kansas City Chiefs, two defensive superstars went down within minutes of each other. The Chiefs were driving down the field with no sign of stopping on the Texans defense, and suddenly NRG Stadium went silent. Superstar defensive end, JJ Watt lay in pain on the field with trainers attending to him. After recently welcoming Watt back to the field after missing nearly the entire 2016 season due to a back injury, he was down again. Watt, almost in tears, limped to the locker room while receiving a standing ovation from the Texans’ fans. After all that Watt has contributed on and off the football field, especially with his Hurricane Harvey fundraiser that accumulated over $37 million for the people of Houston, the whole city felt for him. Minutes later, outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who led the Texans last year with 7.5 sacks, got injured as well. Later that night, the NFL released the devastating news that both players suffered injuries that would cause them to miss the remainder of the season.
In the AFC South division, the Texans are in a tight race for the crown. The Titans and the Jaguars are tied for first place in the division at 4-3. The Texans are closely following behind them with a record of 3-4. The Indianapolis Colts, lacking their starting quarterback, sit at the bottom of the division at 2-6.
The Texans have a great opportunity to rise in their division rankings and improve their chance at making the playoffs when they play the division rival Colts next week; however, the rest of the interdivisional matchups on the Texans schedule fall on the final stretch of the season. Due to this, the AFC South will likely come down to the wire, with the winner unclear until the end of the season. Many exciting division rivalry matchups await, especially with the Jaguars’ star-studded defense and impressive rookie running back Leonard Fournette, as well as the Titans’ talented offense lead by young quarterback Marcus Mariota. The AFC South is in for a long and competitive divisional battle.