Before the 2017 NFL Draft, Clemson Tigers college football coach Dabo Swinney compared his former quarterback Deshaun Watson to Michael Jordan. This was before he played a single snap in the NFL.
His college accolades were impressive, in Dabo’s defense. Watson is a 2-time ACC Athlete of the year, consensus All-American and a 2016 College Football Playoff National Champion. He was the real deal in college.
Deshaun Watson ultimately fell to the No. 12 in the draft to the Houston Texans. But the beginning of his rookie year was unreal.
In the first 7 games, he had 19 touchdowns and a QBR of 83.6. The Texans, who had very low expectations, started 3-3 and Watson was the early Rookie of the Year favorite.
Then he tore his ACL and his rookie season was over. The Texans finished the season 4-12.
Flash forward to this year: The Texans are 10-4, in second place in the AFC, and looking at a potential first-round bye in the playoffs.
JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are forces to be reckoned with on defense and Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Deandre Hopkins are the dynamic duo Houston has been searching for. Although, head coach Bill O’Brien has repeatedly said throughout the the season that all of this good fortune means nothing unless they can win in the playoffs.
The Texans’ two remaining regular season games are against the Eagles and the Jaguars. The Jaguars are on a downward spiral and the Eagles are fighting for a playoff spot. But nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, especially this year.
If they win out, they will have the two seed. If they lose either of those games, they will have the 3 seed and a Wild Card Weekend date with either the Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, or (dare I say it) the Cleveland Browns. Any one of these teams will be a tough matchup.
If they take care of business in the Wild Card or if they gain a first round bye, they are looking at a date with the New England Patriots in the divisional round.
The Patriots are 10-1 all time against the Houston Texans and the Texans are 0-5 under coach Bill O’Brien (a former assistant to Bill Belichick.) The best chance the Texans have in the playoffs is to secure the two seed and gain the bye and home field for their divisional game. So the ultimate test for the Houston Texans legitimacy will come against the bane of their existence as a franchise: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Deshaun Watson can prove to everyone that Dabo Swinney isn’t as crazy as everyone thinks he is and prove to the rest of the NFL that the Texans are a long term legitimate contender in the NFL by beating the Patriots.
Then, if the they are able to beat the Patriots, they could possibly face MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead in the AFC Championship game.
Is it too early to say that the Texans ceiling this year is the Super Bowl?
Photo: Los Angeles Times