The Houston Texans 2020 win total opened at 7.5, after going 10-6 and winning the AFC South for the fourth time in five years in 2019. The lone year they did not win, it was Deshaun Watson’s rookie season in which he sustained a season-ending injury seven games into the season.
Despite the criticism from the sports media, head coach Bill O’Brien continues to win the division and make the playoffs, which is more than the majority of franchises can claim the past five seasons.
After an egregious trade of one of the best players in franchise history, will they be able to repeat the success they have enjoyed since 2015? Let us dive in and find out.
Houston Texans Offseason Breakdown
The most significant move of the Texans free agency, which made national headlines, was trading wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson and a second-round pick before the 2020 NFL Draft. Many believe Johnson to be on the downswing of his career, while Hopkins is in the middle of his prime as a top-5 wide receiver. PFN’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM) grades show as much.
DeAndre Hopkins[table id=137 /]
David Johnson[table id=138 /]
To make up for the loss of Hopkins, the Texans signed wide receiver Randall Cobb and traded for former Rams receiver Brandin Cooks. Considering Cooks’ numerous concussions, surrendering a second-round pick was an overpay, in my opinion. However, if he and Will Fuller can stay on the field, they have two of the most explosive receivers in the game on the field at the same time. The Kansas City Chiefs have shown how deadly that strategy can be.
Aside from running back David Johnson, the rest of the notable acquisitions were on the defensive line. The unit ranked 22nd in Football Outsiders adjusted line yards and 29th in adjusted sack rate, so it makes sense that they would look to address that area of the team.
Hopkins leaves behind 150 targets, 104 receptions, 1,165 yards receiving, seven receiving touchdowns, and a third consecutive First-Team All-Pro selection from 2019. The rest of the receiving corps has plenty of opportunity for production this season. Lamar Miller and Carlos Hyde were released to make room for Johnson.
Veteran cornerback Jonathan Joseph and defensive tackle D.J. Reader (fourth on the team in pressures) rounded out the losses on the defensive side.
Significant Coaching Changes
2019 offensive coordinator Tim Kelly will take over as the play-caller, while Anthony Weaver (2019 defensive line coach) will assume the duties and responsibilities as defensive coordinator. He will look to improve a defense that ranked 26th in DVOA in 2019.
The Texans had to make significant changes to the defensive unit, as they were terrible last season.[table id=136 /]
My colleagues and hosts of the Texans Unfiltered podcast believe Gareon Conley can be a premier shutdown corner in this league. He will have to be, as the cornerback room looks pretty shallow headed into 2020.
The defensive line was the main focus of the Texans draft and free agency. They spent all of their early draft capital looking to improve the unit: a lot is expected from second-rounder Ross Blacklock and third-rounder Jonathan Greenard.
Aside from losing Hopkins, the most significant change headed into 2020 is the play-caller. The 2020 NFL season will be Tim Kelly’s first year calling plays, a move presumably made to take pressure off of head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien.
From 2017-2019, the Houston Texans have had a 50/50, 49/51, and 50/50 pass/rush split on early downs in one-score games, via Sharp Football Stats. In other words, they have strived to be a balanced offense for the past three seasons. It will be interesting to see if Kelly looks to change that approach or if he will continue with the even split on early downs.
The Texans only scored on two of their opening drives in 2019. They carried a lead into halftime just six times, and a lead after three quarters six times as well. With O’Brien relinquishing play-calling duties, that number could spike in 2020, which would take some pressure off of stud QB Deshaun Watson causing him not to have to play “hero ball.”
The offensive line will return all five starters and their offensive line coach in 2020. That’s good news. The bad news is, the unit ranked 21st in adjusted line yards and 27th in adjusted sack rate. Some of that is Watson extending plays, but the group has plenty of room to improve in their own right.
Texans Strength of Schedule Breakdown
Warren Sharp has the Texans with the 12th most difficult schedule based on projected 2020 win totals. It poses an obstacle for the Texans to go over their 2020 win total, but we should note the Texans had the hardest schedule in the league headed into the 2019 season. Despite that, they finished with ten wins and an AFC South division title. Aside from their six divisional games, the Texans will take on the NFC North, AFC North, Kansas City Chiefs, and New England Patriots.
You won’t find a more ominous start to the season than the Houston Texans have. They open the 2020 NFL season Thursday night in Arrowhead, followed by a home date with the Baltimore Ravens. They will be playing the Ravens on extra rest, but ironically enough, they had extra rest when they played the Ravens last season and got demolished in the process.
By Week 4, the Texans will have seen their third 2019 playoff opponent when they host the Minnesota Vikings. Throw in a matchup with the Steelers in Week 3, and you have what is probably the hardest start to the 2020 season. The Houston Texans 2020 win total could be decided by October, for better or for worse.
The home game against the Vikings marks the beginning of a home stretch of sorts, where they will host three of four games before going on their bye week.
After the Vikings, the Jacksonville Jaguars come to town. Even though it is just the Jaguars, having a divisional game after the brutal four-week appetizer is far from optimal. Considering they visit the Tennessee Titans afterward, Jacksonville has the makings of a trap game.
Houston hosts the Green Bay Packers before going on their bye in Week 9.
Their bye week is a waste since they get an extra week of rest to play the Jaguars again. A home date with New England follows a road trip to face the Cleveland Browns (who will be coming off of their bye week). They will have somewhat of a rest advantage as the Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football the week prior.
The last game before the post-Thanksgiving stretch is on Thanksgiving, where they travel to the Detroit Lions.
With three division games in the final five weeks of the season, the post-Thanksgiving stretch could determine the outcome of the Houston Texans 2020 win total. They host the Indianapolis Colts after their turkey day game in Detroit, stop in Chicago for a cup of coffee then go to Indianapolis for their second game against their division rival.
The Texans catch a scheduling break, getting to host the Cincinnati Bengals coming off of a Monday Night game. They enjoy the same fortune Week 17 against the Titans, as the Titans will be coming off of Sunday Night Football in Lambeau (flexing notwithstanding).
Back to back road trips: 2 — Weeks 9 and 10 (Jacksonville/Cleveland), 14 and 15 (Chicago/Indianapolis)
Facing an opponent who will have extra rest: 1 — (Week 10 at Cleveland)
Facing opponent when the Texans will have extra rest: 6 — (Week 2 vs. Baltimore, Week 9 vs. Jacksonville, Week 11 vs. New England, Week 13 vs. Indianapolis, Week 16 vs. Cincinnati, Week 17 vs. Tennessee)
The Texans do have regression coming their way. They were only an eight-win team, according to Football Outsiders Pythagorean wins formula. Their record in one-score games (9-3) is also not sustainable year to year.
If you wanted to bet the Houston Texans 2020 win total just based on these two factors, I wouldn’t blame you. Regression comes for everyone, no matter how good you are. That said, it seems to be baked into the price as their total is 7.5 with juice to the under.
I have two objections to betting the under based on the above regression metrics. The first is Bill O’Brien is not as bad as everyone says he is. You simply can’t call him terrible when he makes the playoffs every year. Is he good? No, probably not. Very few head coaches in the league are objectively good. But maybe giving Tim Kelly play-calling duties relieves his stress to the point of being a better all-around head coach.
The second is Deshaun Watson. Since 2017, Watson has finished as the QB5 (28.49), QB11 (25.52), and QB10 (25.70) in OSM. I have a feeling we could look back on this season five years from now and say, “I can’t believe I ever put money on a Watson under.” He’s like Russell Wilson in that regard. Watson affords the Texans a quarterback advantage in every game except for Week 1 in Kansas City. That should have you thinking twice about betting the under.
I’m going to stay away from the Houston Texans 2020 win total. Despite my unwavering faith in Watson, the first seven weeks are brutal. Betonline has them as projected favorites in just one game: at home vs. Jacksonville.
I do, however, like their division odds. I’m down on this division as a whole. I don’t think Philip Rivers can be an effective quarterback anymore, the Jaguars are terrible, and the Titans are due for some significant offensive regression. They were far too efficient under Ryan Tannehill last season. This could be a year where 7-9 wins the AFC South. That leaves us with the best quarterback in the division at odds as high as 4/1 (Bookmaker).
Betonline also offers props for a team’s exact number of wins within specific ranges. If you are higher on the Texans than I am, you can get them to win 10-14 games at 2.5/1 (+250).
One final season-long prop is their exact finish within their division. I doubt there’s any chance the Jaguars finish above 4th. If you don’t believe the Texans can win the division, you can lock in a small profit by betting them to finish 2nd (+225) and 3rd (+175).
My official play will be the Texans to win the AFC South at 4/1, though I like it as “low” as 3/1.
Houston Texans 2020 win total 7.5: No bet
Futures Bets: AFC South Future +400, 0.5U