One of the notable aspects of the modern NFL’s commitment to parity is the opportunity for last place teams to turn their fortunes around in a year and win the division. Take a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars, who went from last place in 2021 to winning the AFC South and a wild-card game in a season’s span.
According to Kevin Patra from NFL.com, who compiled a list of the eight last place teams from the 2022 campaign, the Houston Texans are seventh in terms of candidates to go from “worst to first” in 2023.
The Texans signaled they’re all in on 2023 by trading next year’s first-round pick to snag edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. immediately after selecting quarterback C.J. Stroud at No. 2 overall in last month’s draft. There are some good young pieces in Houston. Stroud should fit well in new offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik’s scheme. Second-year running back Dameon Pierce is electric. Tight end Dalton Schultz was a solid addition. The defense — with Anderson, Jalen Pitre, Derek Stingley Jr., Christian Harris and other veterans head coach DeMeco Ryans brought in to run his scheme — could turn things around swiftly. But it remains a roster riddled with holes.
It may be easier for the Texans to make the playoffs at-large as qualification for the seventh seed isn’t as rigorous as winning a division title. If the Texans are an eight-loss team, there may be a chance they get the third wild-card spot.
To win the AFC South for the first time since 2019, Houston would need the rest of the division to falter. The Jaguars would have to tumble while the Tennessee Titans sputtered and the Indianapolis Colts endured severe growing pains with rookie coach Shane Steichen and rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson. These factors would be especially critical if the Texans are inconsistent throughout the year.
Winning the division may be out of the question, but at least it isn’t as impossible of a notion as it was the past three years.