Excitement is so high around the Houston Texans that anything less than an appearance in the AFC Championship Game would be seen as a disappointment by many of the team's fans. That's regarded as the next step — almost the minimum — for a franchise that clearly views itself as Super Bowl worthy.
Don't count ESPN Magazine among the believers though.
In its NFL preview issue, ESPN predicts that the Texans will finish the regular season 9-6-1 and lose in the first round of the playoffs to Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos. The regular season record — which would still be enough to win the AFC South, according to the magazine — is based on AccuScore computer projections of every game of the regular season.
Schaub cannot like being branded "fragile." Especially as he goes into a season when he'll be playing for a new contract.
The computer has Gary Kubiak's team losing at Denver in Week 3 (that Manning guy again), in back-to-back home games to Green Bay and Baltimore in Week 6 and 7, at Chicago in Week 10, at Detroit on Thanksgiving and at New England in Week 14. It also has the Texans' tying the New York Jets in a Monday nighter.
More damning is the blurb that accompanies the prediction: "Last season, the D went from one of the NFL's worst to one of its best. The offense remains potent. With a kind schedule, this team is popular.
"But Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans are gone, and Matt Schaub is fragile. Houston won't be as good."
Schaub cannot like being branded "fragile." Especially as he goes into a season when he'll be playing for a new contract. Heck, even the New York Times has jumped in and dubbed Schaub "a limited quarterback" in its own Texans preview.
What's next? Better Homes and Garden magazine rips No. 8's backyard?
Few quarterbacks have thrown the ball better this preseason than Schaub though. If he plays 16 games again (something he did in the both the 2010 and 2009 seasons), it's hard to imagine Houston getting stuck on nine wins.
That projection is even more surprising when you consider the Texans won 10 regular season games last season as they ran through three quarterbacks and ended up with a fifth-round rookie as their playoff starter. Then again, the NFL has a way of surprising every year.