In the conclusion of Texans 101’s comparative series between the Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys, let’s take a look at the upcoming 2012 season and how each team will fare. Last week, Texans 101 went through a four-quarter breakdown of the Texans schedule, ultimately resulting in a 12-4 record for the Bulls on Parade. That’s some pretty lofty expectations, but certainly based in reality.
Without getting into an overly through breakdown of the Cowboys’ schedule in 2012, fans should expect to see the Boys finish somewhere in the 8-10 wins range. They’re a fairly enigmatic team, disappointing you when you think they’ll be a contender and surprising you when you lay off the expectations. The fact is they play in one of, if not the, most competitive division in the NFL. The Cowboys, along with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, are threats to win the division every year. Now with the addition of RGIII in Washington, the Redskins could be added to the mix should Griffin come out guns blazing a la Cam Newton in 2011. The Cowboys would probably need to finish 10-6 to win the NFC East, if not 11-5. A wild card spot is difficult as well because the NFC could have as many as five teams battling it out for the two wild card spots heading into the last week of the season. The balance of power in the NFL has certainly shifted to the NFC, making life tougher on the Cowboys.
The Texans on the other hand play in what might be the worst division in the NFL. With the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars transitioning to new quarterbacks and new systems and the Indianapolis Colts in full rebuilding mode, the Texans could possibility finish as bad as 9-7 or 8-8 and still win this division (provided the majority of those wins come against their AFC South rivals). Furthermore, even if somebody in this division surprises and pushes the Texans, a wild card is more easily attainable in the AFC. It’s very hard to imagine a scenario in which the Texans don’t make the playoffs, even in a disaster type of season.
I’m not one for strength of schedule because it factors in how teams played in the previous season and doesn’t take into account offseason moves or guys recovering from injury. With that being said, the Cowboys have the 11th toughest schedule in 2012. Their opponents had a 2011 winning percentage of .504 and they play seven teams that won at least nine games last season. The Texans have it far easier, playing the 28th most difficult schedule with a 2011 winning percentage of .473 and only play six games against teams with nine plus wins last year. Again, I don’t take much stock in these numbers because teams’ success fluctuates from year to year. Despite the 28th ranking, I actually feel the Texans schedule is much more difficult that people realize. Playing in the AFC South surely drags those numbers down, but their out of division schedule is one of the tougher lineups in the NFL. The Cowboys’ 11th ranked schedule seems about right.
The Texans are built to make a strong playoff run. They have a good ground game and a solid defense. Those two things alone will always keep you in games (ask the Tim Tebow led Denver Broncos from a year ago). This is the type of team that can win on the road and in bad weather conditions, control the clock, and grind out victories. The Cowboys don’t seem to have that same ability. They could be able to run the football if Demarco Murray comes back 100%, but he has had injury problems since his freshmen year at Oklahoma. Their interior offensive line also limits their rushing attack while not providing Tony Romo the same type of protection in the passing game as Matt Schaub is afforded. The Texans play action passing also allows Schaub to move outside the pocket by design whilst Romo can sometimes become a sitting duck in the Cowboys’ pocket-oriented passing game. The Cowboys made significant improvements to their defense, but are still not battle tested with this group. We all know what the Texans defense is capable of and with no major changes to the group that started the majority of games last season, it’s hard to imagine much of a drop off, it any at all. The Cowboys will have a tougher time winning the types of games the Texans can win, those on the road and those in bad weather.
Baring catastrophic injuries or other unforeseen events, it’s hard to imagine the Cowboys having a better 2012 than the Texans. As I said before, Texans 101 went in depth to analyze each Texans game for the upcoming season, and came out with a 12-4 record. Even if the ball doesn’t bounce the Texans way as much as fans would like, its unlikely the Texans finish with any less than 10 wins. The Cowboys will struggle to get to 10 wins. A tougher schedule in a tougher conference with a less talented team will probably put the Cowboys in that 8-10 wins range, but more likely around the .500 mark. The Texans will all but be assured a playoff berth while the Cowboys could be out of the race as early as week 4.
It should come as no surprise that the Texans and Cowboys are at their current respective places in the NFL. Everything outlined the past four days has gotten us to this point. The Texans organizational structure provides them the ideal working environment to pursue their committed strategy of building a football team from the inside out. The Cowboys rely on one man to run the entire organization with no consequences, leading to unchallenged roster moves that have set the Cowboys back the past five seasons. In the case of Wade Phillips, he epitomizes the stark differences in the two organizations. Phillips has had as much positive influence on the Texans as he has had negative influence on the Cowboys. The Texans’ hiring of him to a position within his capabilities is just another example of intelligent management.
The Texans will not only be the best team in Texans this season, but for several seasons to come. The Cowboys are a bunch treading in mediocrity while the Texans have taken every step to ensure prolonged success. The Cowboys may still be America’s team, but there is no question the Texans’ have begun the transformation into Texas’ team.
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