Despite finishing the 2017 regular season with a 4-12 record, the Texans have a lot to look forward to in 2018. This excitement is mainly based around the fact that elite quarterback Deshaun Watson will be returning from an ACL injury next season. With Watson sparking the offense, and the already solid defense being aided by the returns of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, the Houston Texans could will make playoffs in 2018.

Aforementioned earlier, the main reason that the Texans will make playoffs next season is because Deshaun Watson is returning from injury. After an outstanding five-week run that included 1,472 yards and 18 touchdowns, Watson suffered a torn ACL during practice, just after a Week 8 matchup against the Seahawks.

Just to emphasize the importance of Watson, the Texans had a 3-4 record and averaged 31 points per game when he was playing. Without Watson, the Texans went 1-8 and averaged 14 points per game. This dramatic drop in offensive production, and in turn a terrible stretch for the Texans as a whole, displays just how much of a difference maker Deshaun Watson is.

With Watson healthy next season, the future of the Texans offense looks much brighter, especially since Watson will still be under the tutelage of Bill O’Brien. It has taken over six years for the Texans to find a starting quarterback, but the wait is finally over.

Texans tackle Chris Clark is 80nd at his position according to Pro Football Focus (Shanna Lockwood/USATSI).

This optimism for the Texans offense is even more bright because tackles Chris Clark and Breno Giacomini will be hitting free agency this offseason. Giacomini is ranked the 85th best tackle in football, and Chris Clark the 80th  best.

It will be highly unlikely the Texans get two tackles worse than Giacomini and Clark. They were arguably the worst tackle duo in football, with their Pro Football Grades putting them at the bottom of their positions.

Giacomini was drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft by the Green Bay Packers (Jonathan Bachman).

So even if the replacement offensive tackles, either found through the draft or free agency, end up being busts, they could still end up being an improvement from the 2017 season. Overall, the future for the Texans offense looks very bright, with the return of Deshaun Watson and the exits of Breno Giacomini and Chris Clark.

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On top of their offense bound to be rejuvenated next season, the Texans defense looks as if it is ready to dominate as well. This is mainly due to the fact that J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus will return. Both being injured in a Week 5 against the Chiefs, the Texans defense felt the effects of their two elite players hitting the injured reserve.

J.J. Watt suffered a season-ending leg injury against the Chiefs (Getty Images).

Before their injuries in Week 5, the Texans averaged 22 points allowed per game. But from Week 5 and on, the Texans averaged 29 points allowed per game. The reason the points allowed shot up is obvious, J.J. Watt is arguably the best defensive end in football, so losing him was a major hit to the defense and the Texans a whole.

Watt is even more popular than Deshaun Watson in Houston at this point in time, and is the team captain, always leading his team onto the field carrying the Texas flag. Losing an icon and leader like Watt is devastating to any team, which is a major reason why the Texans defense played far worse after his injury.

Whitney Mercilus suffered a pectoral injury against the Chiefs that landed him on the IR (Big Baller Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle).

Don’t sleep on Whitney Mercilus either, who is probably one of the best defenders on the Texans. His MO is being an electric edge rusher, garnering 19.5 sacks in the 2015-2016 seasons. Losing Mercilus played a key role in the Texans being ranked 23rd in the NFL with 32.0 total sacks.

With the returns of Mercilus and Watt in 2018, the Texans defense looks ready to wreck havoc on opposing quarterbacks, especially with their elite defensive line and linebackers. Their secondary definitely needs some improvement, but at least the rushing defense can start being the elite force that it once was.

On the offensive and defensive side of football, the Texans will have their best players returning from injury, and some of their worst players hitting free agency. This leaves them primed for a playoff run. Even though the 2017 season was a bust, the 2018 season is one Texans fans should be optimistic for.

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