Sarah Barshop, ESPN Staff Writer 11d

After riding high with Deshaun Watson, Texans face big challenge

Here's a look at the first half of the season for the Houston Texans and a preview of what to expect the second half:

First-half snapshot: The difference in the Texans' offense with quarterback Deshaun Watson under center was a very pleasant surprise for Houston after the rookie took over for Tom Savage at halftime of the season opener. Although the Texans were 3-3 in Watson's starts, the offense thrived when led by the rookie, and the Texans scored 30 or more points in five consecutive games, which is a franchise record. The defense struggled in the first half, and twice this season was unable to make a stop with the game on the line, giving up game-winning touchdowns to the New England Patriots (Week 3) and Seattle Seahawks (Week 8) with less than 30 seconds left in the game. Grade: Average.

Midseason MVP: Watson. The rookie quarterback transformed the Texans’ offense, moving the ball down the field in a way that they could not do last season with similar offensive weapons. Along with DeAndre Hopkins, who has an NFL-best eight touchdown catches, and Will Fuller V, who is second in the league with seven receiving touchdowns, the Texans offense averaged 3.3 offensive touchdowns per game. Before Watson got hurt, the Texans led the NFL in scoring, averaging 30.7 points per game. Last season, Houston was tied for 28th in the same category.

Best moment: The Texans’ 57-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans. Houston’s Week 4 blowout win over a division rival was Watson’s coming-out party, after he threw for 283 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for another and helping the team set a franchise record in points scored and largest margin of victory. It was after this game that Hopkins thanked the Texans' organization "for going out and moving up and getting a guy like Deshaun Watson."

Worst moment: Losing Watson for the season after he tore the ACL in his right leg during practice before the Texans' Week 9 game against the Indianapolis Colts, ending a stellar rookie season in which he passed for 19 touchdowns, the most in NFL history in the first seven games of a career.

Second-half outlook: Savage and the Texans face a tougher schedule down the stretch. For the first time in a long time, it is the Houston defense that is going to have to improve if the Texans want to win a third straight AFC South title. Houston hasn’t been above .500 all season, and although no one is running away with the AFC South, the Jacksonville Jaguars have shown they are a legitimate threat to the Texans and Titans.

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