2018 NFL Over-Under Win Totals: If Watson and Watt are healthy, Houston is a scary team

A dreamscape season for the Houston Texans took a turn towards nightmare-ville about midway through Deshaun Watson's magnificent rookie campaign, when the former Clemson standout and OROY favorite tore his ACL and left the team holding the bag and starting Tom Savage.

What resulted was the Texans finishing with a top-five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, which they promptly handed to the Browns thanks to a draft-day trade from 2017 that landed them Watson. That no one blinked once during the entire process tells you how special the franchise quarterback looked last year between the time he took the job from Savage and his injury. 

Injury recovery is the theme for Houston in 2018: if Watson and All-Galaxy defensive J.J. Watt -- a three-time DPOY winner who happens to be on a heater of a humanitarian streak -- are fully recovered and operating at something close to 90 percent capacity by the time the season starts, Houston will be dangerous. 

We've never gotten a full season of Watt playing with Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus; it sure would be fun to finally see the full powers of this defense. The addition of Tyrann Mathieu in free agency only makes it more exciting. And DeAndre Hopkins deserves better than another season with footballs being thrown at his feet. 

Vegas sees these guys recovering, because the over-under is set at 8.5 wins.

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Early Schedule Analysis 

Watson won't get much time to get his feet wet: the Texans open in Foxborough against Bill Belichick and the Patriots in Week 1, before playing the Titans in Tennessee in Week 2. The Texans have their home opener against the Giants in Week 3, then play the Colts in Indy during Week 4. Not going 2-2 would be a disappointment there. The Cowboys at home on Sunday night of Week 5 kicks off a run of prime time games, with the Texans appearing on national television at least three more times after that. They draw the Bills in Week 6 at home, the Jags in Week 7 on the road and the Dolphins on Thursday night of Week 8 at home. A trip to Denver closes out a pre-bye schedule that should feature four or five wins if the Texans want to meet their lofty expectations. The Redskins (road) in Week 11 give way to a three-game home stretch against the Titans, Browns and Colts (friendly much?), before the Texans close out against the Jets (road), Eagles (road) and Jaguars (home). That final game could easily be a de facto division title game. 

Why They'll Go Over

Watson plays 16 games and performs the way he did over six starts last season -- prorate his shortened season over a full NFL schedule and he would have thrown for 4,182 yards with 47 passing touchdowns and 662 rushing yards to boot. Those are MVP numbers, which explains the enthusiasm here. But those numbers are absolute best-case; it would be foolish to just expect them. If Watson is simply as good as he was last year with dampened statistical production, the Texans will be in the playoff hunt. They will need some help from this offensive line though. If you can find a non-Texans fan friend capable of naming all five starting lineman for Houston's offense, pat them on the back for their football knowledge and tell them to seek help. It's an anonymous group that will need to gel and play well if the Texans want to win nine games. They could easily get a big boost from the defense though. Healthy seasons out of Watt, Clowney and Mercilus would go a long way towards making the Texans an extremely scary team capable of dominating on both sides of the ball. 

Why They'll Go Under

The offensive line is a major concern. Having a quarterback returning from an ACL injury being chased around by angry defenders with inadequate protection is a recipe for that quarterback to get injured again. It's really hard to see the Texans running attack looking anything like an above average unit this year; D'Onta Foreman is hurt and Lamar Miller's been a disappointment as a free agent signing from a few years ago. Hopkins hasn't been healthy in his career -- it really has to happen this year, with the Texans banking on Bruce Ellington and/or Braxton Miller breaking out to join Hopkins and Will Fuller (Fuller was having a nice season as a deep threat before he suffered an injury) or rookie Keke Coutee managing to fill the void as a slot receiver out of the gate. The injuries the defense dealt with last year could pretty easily crop right back up and be a problem. The loss of Mike Vrabel shouldn't be an issue with Romeo Crennel sticking around but the defense might not be a guarantee to be elite. 

The Pick

This is a tough one: I like the Texans this year, much more than last season. I love Watson. I love Watt. The schedule is friendly. But the number is too high: the offensive line is one of the weakest units in all of football and people are sleeping on the actual recovery time, in terms of playing at a high level, from an ACL tear. Watson might be ready Week 1 but he might not be rolling until the second quarter of the season. 

VERDICT: UNDER (8.5)

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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