Power Rankings: Preseason: No. 14. This week: No. 13.
Where they stand: At 4-4 the Texans are not where they expected to be after an opening day win over Indianapolis and a 3-1 start. They’ve got the league’s worst defense and worst passing defense, and their route to winning has been to outscore people. It’s a course they’ve struggled to follow in back-to-back losses to the Colts and Chargers. Halfway through the season, the Texans are not living up to internal or external expectations. Still, they are 1-1 in the division with a pair of games still to come against the Jaguars and Titans.
Falling: While there have been calls in Houston for rookie cornerback Kareem Jackson to be pulled, at least temporarily, from the starting lineup, the Texans are sticking with him. I can appreciate the loyalty, but there is also the fact that they have no real viable alternative to give him a recovery break. And Jackson is hardly the only problem for a defense giving up a whopping 399.5 yards a game. The pass coverage isn’t getting it done, but the pass rush isn’t regularly putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, either.
Rising: Arian Foster is fresh off an AFC South High Energy Player of the Week award. The running back has broken the 100-yard mark in five games. His 864 yards make him the NFL’s leading rusher. His nine rushing touchdowns are the most in the league, and his 10 total touchdowns make him the NFL’s highest-scoring non-kicker. He’s been almost too good to be true. And a team that relied on its precise passing game last season when it really struggled to run has not always done a good job of feeding him the ball the way a back of his caliber needs to be.
Midseason MVP: Foster has been a revelation and looks like the clear-cut team MVP to me. He can make a case for midseason league MVP and midseason offensive player of the year.
Outlook: The .500 record at the halfway point is disappointing, and the Texans can second-guess their approach in the rematch with the Colts and their play in home losses to Dallas and San Diego. The defense can’t play any worse, and if the Kiddie Corps in the secondary starts to show the growth the front office and coaches expected when they chose this route, things could improve. It’s hard to picture it being better enough to weather tough matchups against the Jets, Eagles, Titans (twice) and Ravens still to come. I don't see a playoff berth for this team.