Many people think the Texans could be a playoff team in 2015 with a very good defense, led by J.J. Watt, and one of the NFL's best tailbacks in Arian Foster. But Foster is already hurt and that might make Houston a bad bet to reach the postseason.
Big Loss To Be Sure
Foster certainly has become of the best undrafted running backs in NFL history, but the former University of Tennessee star has had trouble staying healthy in his career. He has played all 16 regular-season games just twice and those were his two best years: in 2010 Foster rushed 327 times for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns; and in 2012, he had 351 carries for 1,424 yards and 15 scores. Foster played in only eight games in 2013 but bounced back with a fine season in 2014, toting the ball 260 times for 1,246 yards and eight scores in 13 games. His 95.8 yard-per-game average was No. 2 in the NFL. His 34 rushes of at least 10 yards were fifth. He also caught 38 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns and earned his fourth trip to the Pro Bowl. Beginning with the 2010 season, Foster has more 100-yard rushing games (31) than anyone. Second is Marshawn Lynch with 24.
The Houston Texans need a healthy Foster this season because they have two long-time backups battling to win the starting quarterback job in camp in Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer, the latter of whom was signed as a free agent from Cleveland this offseason. They also have to replace franchise all-time receiving leader Andre Johnson, who left for Indianapolis. The Texans ran the ball more than any other team in the NFL last season, when they were forced to play four quarterbacks, including three starters. Foster averaged 4.8 yards per carry in 2014. All other Texans players combined to average 3.1 yards per carry.
Alas, during Houston's practice on Monday night, Foster suffered a groin injury and reports out of Houston are that he will require surgery, although it won't be season ending. He was hurt on a pass play. The team hasn't given full details yet but there are media reports that it's serious and now Foster starting the season on the PUP list would seem to be in play. Or going on injured reserve with a designation to return would keep Foster off the practice field until after at least Week 6 and he wouldn't be allowed to play in a game until after Week 8.
The Texans have Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes, Chris Polk and Kenny Hilliard on the roster behind Foster. Blue would likely take over as the starter. He rushed 169 times for 528 yards and two scores in 2014 as a sixth-round rookie out of LSU. Polk was signed as a free agent from the Philadelphia Eagles and Hilliard is a seventh-round pick from LSU.
Dismiss Foster Rushing Prop Now
Foster was listed at +1200 on 5Dimes to lead the NFL in rushing but go ahead and forget about that now. I don't think this injury will influence Coach Bill O'Brien's decision on choosing between Mallett and Hoyer. The latter is the -180 NFL odds favorite to start Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs with any other starter at +140.
Houston's bye is Week 9. The schedule the first eight weeks of the season are vs. Kansas City, at Carolina, vs. Tampa Bay, at Atlanta, vs. Indianapolis, at Jacksonville, at Miami and vs. Tennessee. That's a pretty forgiving schedule with only the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts as playoff teams in 2014. The Bucs, Titans and Jaguars were the NFL's three worst clubs last year. So it's possible the Texans could still manage a 5-3 start or something like that if Foster misses the first eight games. The schedule is tougher after the bye week.
This injury certainly makes the upcoming HBO show "Hard Knocks," which features the Texans this season, more interesting.
NFL Free Picks: The Texans are +475 to win the AFC South, +160 to make the playoffs and -195 not to. They have a wins total of 9, with the 'under' a -135 favorite. Indy will win the division again and I'd go 'under' that win total now.