Yes, while the big game is being played between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, the Texans nearly made the improbable run of a lifetime under first-year coach DeMeco Ryans. After entering the season at +20,000 or 200-to-1 odds, dead-last in the NFL. Only the Arizona Cardinals came at +19,500 or 195-to-1 odds entering the season.
For those who put a few bucks down on Houston's seven-win turnaround, congratulations on hitting before the Texans hit their stride. That won't be the case in for Super Bowl LIX in New Orleans on Feb. 9, 2025.
When looking back, Houston shouldn't be here. Yes, even with Stroud's rise to glory, Ryans' ability to command excellence on the field and the development of young players like Will Anderson Jr., Derek Stingley, Tank Dell and others.
The Texans were a lost cause. Amid the hiring of Jack Easterby, the firing of general manager Brian Gaine, the promotion — and later firing — of Bill O'Brien, the DeAndre Hopkins dilemma, the Deshaun Watson scandal, court case and later trade, and firing of one-and-one coaches in back-to-back years, Houston rank near the bottom of every book in the country.
Instead, Houston is tied with the Green Bay Packers and lands in the top 10. The Packers could be another team on the rise under new quarterback sensation Jordan Love.
The Texans have the best odds among all AFC South teams. Jacksonville, which finished 9-8 and missed the postseason, came close at +3500 while the Titans landed at 30th with +15,0000.
San Francisco and Kansas City entered with the best odds after besting everyone in the conference for a trip to Las Vegas. Baltimore, who bested Houston in the AFC Divisional Round, came in with +850 odds while Buffalo and Detriot rounded out the top five.
Stroud, who became the fifth rookie passer in league history to throw for over 4,000 yards in his first season, will have another season of experience under his belt. Dell, who suffered a season-ending leg injury in December, will be back in the lineup, while Nico Collins still has another year on his current contract.
Defensively, Houston must try to either retain or replace starting-caliber names like Steven Nelson, Jonathan Greenard and Blake Cashman. With the No. 23 pick, the Texans could target a linebacker, defensive end or cornerback. Several mock drafts actually lean toward corner being the selection just outside the top 20.
Houston isn't a finished product, but it's ahead of schedule. How much will fans invest into that? Hopefully enough to still afford rent should the Texans come up short of heading one state over.