Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Texans fans, if you aren't familiar with Aaron Schatz, I suspect you're going to want to be.
I chatted recently with Schatz on a variety of subjects. But the most interesting AFC South nugget he gave me is this: He thinks the Texans are going 10-6 and making the playoffs.
Schatz and his staff at footballoutsiders.com -- which is part of the ESPN.com family and author of the annual Pro Football Prospectus -- work hard to take football statistics outside the box and find trends and indicators that do better than conventional numbers to interpret context.
As he looked to identify an "it" team this year, he said he looks for franchises with a lot of high draft picks who are heading into their second and third years. Football Outsiders, he said, identified Dallas as such a team last year and had predicted good things for the 2005 Bears.
The factors he points to that will trigger a big year for Houston: A healthy Andre Johnson, some continuity on the offensive line even with a rookie left tackle and an easier schedule.
Schatz strays from the book's 8.9 mean projection of wins for the Texans, noting that those projections take into account all possible scenarios and automatically slant hard to toward 8-8.
The book has the Colts with a 2008 mean projection of 9.9 wins, Jacksonville at 9.2, Houston at 8.9 and Tennessee at 6.7.
Schatz is down on the Titans, because he said defenses are less consistent year to year and they were the beneficiaries of an easy schedule in 2007.