One of the notable aspects of the modern NFL’s commitment to equality is the opportunity for last-place teams to change their fortunes in one year and win a division. Take a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars, who went from last place in the AFC South in 2021 to winning a wild-card game at the end of the season.
The Houston Texans are seventh in terms of candidates going into 2023 “before the worst,” according to NFL.com’s Kevin Patra, who compiled a list of the eight last-place teams from the 2022 campaign.
Shortly after selecting quarterback CJ Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick in last month’s draft, the Texans indicated they would move into 2023 by trading next year’s first-round pick to snag edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. There are some fine young artists in Houston. Stroud should fit in well in new offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik’s scheme. Second year running back Damian Pierce is electric. Tight end Dalton Schultz was a solid addition. The defense — Anderson, Jalen Pitre, Derek Stingley Jr., Christian Harris and other veterans brought in with head coach Demeko Ryan to run his scheme — can change things fast. But it remains a roster full of holes.
It could be easier for the Texans to make the playoffs in a big way because qualifying for the seventh seed isn’t as tough as winning a division title. If the Texans are an eight-loss team, there is a possibility that they will get the third wild-card spot.
To win the AFC South for the first time since 2019, Houston will need to falter the rest of the division. The Jaguars must roll while the Tennessee Titans sputtered and the Indianapolis Colts endured severe growing pains with rookie coach Shane Steichen and rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson. These factors will be especially important if the Texans are inconsistent throughout the year.
Winning the division is out of the question, but at least it’s not as impossible as it was the last three years.