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PFT 2019 storyline No. 27: Can the Texans get to the next level?

Texans QB Deshaun Watson has the talent to become the best quarterback in the AFC, but Houston's offense may not be able to provide Watson with a stat line that could stand out among competitors.

Of the 12 NFL teams that have never won a Super Bowl, the Texans have the best excuse: They’ve only been around since 2002.

But the Texans haven’t even come close to playing in a Super Bowl, with no playoff appearances until 2011, three playoff wins, and an 0-3 record in the divisional round.

With one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL (Chris Simms placed Deshaun Watson at No. 5 after only two seasons), the Texans have the most important position on the field under control for the foreseeable future. It’s the rest of the team that creates the questions.

The concern starts with the offensive line, which hasn’t nearly been good enough to protect Watson, who was hit early and often and at one point had to take a bus back and forth to Jacksonville because of a rib injury that prevented him from flying. Somehow, Watson started all 16 games despite being sacked a whopping 62 times.

That’s simply not sustainable, and the Texans have focused on trying to improve the blocking. But only so much can be done in one offseason to make those five spots better, and it remains to be seen whether the moves made in the offseason will make a difference. (Vikings and Panthers fans would advise Texans fans to temper dramatically their expectations regarding free-agent arrival Matt Kalil.)

It also would be helpful to develop a solid alternative to receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who continues to be one of the best receivers in the league. Defensively, it likewise would be helpful to develop cornerbacks and safeties who can cover opposing receivers more effectively than they did in the playoff loss to the Colts.

Complicating matters in 2019 for the Texans will be the likelihood that both the Colts and the Jaguars will be better. The Titans, while perhaps too inconsistent to win the division, are talented enough to be dangerous -- especially to a team that doesn’t take Tennessee as seriously as it should.

Beyond the AFC South, teams like the Patriots, Browns, Steelers, Ravens, Chiefs, and Chargers provide serious impediments to maximum playoff seeding, and to success if/when the Texans get back to the playoffs. Which could once again make the Texans an odd man out when the AFC Championship game arrives.

But, hey, at least the Texans won’t be able to blame their failure to take the next step on their General Manager.