Motivation or misery
No playoffs for Texans? Sports Illustrated and ESPN both see Houston's teamstaying home
That playoff fever gripping the Houston Texans and their fans isn't exactly spreading far beyond the city limits. It might not have even reached Katy.
It certainly hasn't penetrated the headquarters of the sports traditional media giants. Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine's NFL preview issues are both out and the forecasts are anything but pretty for the Texans.
Peter King — the most influential NFL writer in the country — predicts that the Texans will finish 9-7 for the second straight season and miss out on the postseason on a tiebreaker for the second straight season. King has Houston, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Miami all going 9-7 with only the Ravens making the playoffs as the final wildcard team out of the AFC.
In SI's Texans scouting report, staff writer Andrew Lawrence writes that the Texans' "surplus of talent belies the lack of killer instinct."
But Sports Illustrated is downright kind to coach Gary Kubiak's team compared to ESPN. The sports network giant's mag tabs the Texans for a 6-10 season in its team-by-team breakdowns, which might be regarded as a bigger disaster in Houston than the BP oil spill.
Think about that for a moment ... 6-10 for a team with Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and one of the most prolific passing offenses in a more and more pass-dependent league? Kubiak might as well put several realtors on speed dial now if there's any chance of this happening.
In fact, ESPN only has one team in the AFC South even finishing with a winning record — the Texans' personal nemesis and opening Sunday opponent, the Indianapolis Colts. Though the Tennessee Titans are also forecast to finish ahead of Houston at 7-9.
The Dallas Cowboys, on the other hand, are still largely media darlings. Sports Illustrated has Dallas going 10-6, earning a wildcard playoff spot and losing in the second round of the playoffs. ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski has the Cowboys going all the way to the Super Bowl — only to lose the big game in their home stadium.
Kubiak and the Texans will no doubt try to use all this doubt as motivation. There isn't a football coach alive who doesn't love to build an us against the world mentality.
That's all well and good, but it doesn't change the fact that — with linebacker Brian Cushing suspended for the first four games of the season and the Texans set to play the toughest schedule in the NFL — almost no one outside of Houston expects this franchise to make the playoffs for the first time in its history. Who do you think's living in denial?
Those inside the hometown bubble or those examining things from afar?