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Thursday, November 15, 2012
Can the Texans make Super Bowl?

By Paul Kuharsky

NFC: Giants | 49ers | Packers | Falcons AFC: Patriots | Broncos | Ravens | Texans

The NFL’s youngest team ranks as the best in the league through 10 weeks and has plenty of cause to believe it can maintain the status through the regular season, entering the playoffs as the AFC favorite to play in the Super Bowl.

Why can the Texans make it to New Orleans?

They are a balanced team in a lot of different ways. They run the ball very well with Arian Foster, but also have a quarterback, Matt Schaub, who can efficiently deliver the ball to targets led by Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels. They do well balancing the offense, with play-action and bootleg passes spun off the run game. But if a game dictates they do one thing more than the other, they are capable. Gary Kubiak’s offense is different from what teams see most weeks, which helps make it a hard one to defend. The coach is a confident playcaller, able to quickly diagnose what a defense might be doing and make a shrewd counter move.

The Texans are balanced on defense, too. They can bottle up the run and are a capable pass-rushing team that’s also getting excellent play from everyone in the secondary. An extra element: If J.J. Watt isn’t in the backfield sacking the quarterback or tackling the running back for a loss, he clogs up a passing lane and swats passes to the ground -- or into the arms of fellow defenders. Coordinator Wade Phillips is in his second season and his guys have a full understanding of his 3-4 scheme, which often really functions as a 5-2.

At 8-1, the Texans are brimming with confidence and they’ve got a great mix of star power (such as headliners Watt, Foster and Johnson), budding stars (such as left tackle Duane Brown and outside linebacker Brooks Reed), solid starters who aren’t as well known but make consistent contributions (such as defensive lineman Antonio Smith and center Chris Myers) and role players who understand their place (such as fullback James Casey and nickelback Brice McCain).

Although they showed at Soldier Field they can win in miserable weather on the road, they are in line to earn home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. If they lose at Reliant Stadium, it’ll qualify as an upset.