After winning the AFC South for the second year in a row, the Houston Texans made it into the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history, too. However, the 2012 Texans could get no deeper in the playoffs than the 2011 version, falling in the Divisional Round to the New England Patriots after beating the Bengals in the Wild Card Round (for the second year in a row, interestingly enough).
The Texans aren't just looking to make it into the playoffs for the third year in a row, they're looking to get to the AFC Championship or beyond. They have the offensive firepower, with Matt Schaub behind center, Arian Foster in the backfield and Andre Johnson at wide receiver, and they have the defense to go deep into the playoffs, as well. With just a few pieces added in here or there on the roster, the Texans might finally take that next step.
Biggest need: Outside linebacker
There's no question that Mario Williams was missed in Houston in 2013. His ability to get to the quarterback wasn't reproduced by Connor Barwin, who is also a free agent, or Brooks Reed. The two outside linebackers in Houston's 3-4 defense only managed eight sacks between them, which was fewer than Williams managed in Buffalo by himself in 2012. Due to the fact that the NFL is a passing league and quarterback Andrew Luck is making quick progress for the Colts, the Texans' ability to get to the quarterback will be even more important. They need to get an elite pass rusher again.
Other needs: Right tackle, inside linebacker
The Texans are set at left tackle, but Derek Newton, the team's starting right tackle, struggled more often than not in 2012, both as a run blocker and as a pass protector. The Texans could be looking to upgrade the position in free agency or in the draft. They can't continue to run to the left in order to avoid whoever Newton is supposed to be blocking and expect to have an efficient offense.
They also could be looking for help at inside linebacker. Brian Cushing is extremely talented, but when he was lost for the season, the depth behind him and around him was obviously lacking. Bradie James, Tim Dobbins and Darryl Sharpton don't seem as if they can fill Cushing's shoes if he were injured again or if he wasn't 100 percent when the 2013 season starts. Again, the Texans could keep their eyes open in free agency or the draft to upgrade the position.
Another wide receiver across from Andre Johnson is once again a need for the Texans.
NFL Draft outlook: Texans on the clock at No. 27
The Houston Texans pick at No. 27 in six of the seven rounds in the upcoming draft. The only round that's different is the second round, where they have the No. 25 pick. Mock drafts have been fairly inconsistent when it comes to the Texans. While some have them picking a pass-rushing outside linebacker, others have them going after a wide receiver with their first-rounder.
Salary cap situation: A little wiggle room
For now, the Texans have $7.4 million in room under the salary cap, according to the Houston Chronicle. Cap space is never what it seems, however. Last year, the team managed to go from $20 million over the cap to $4 million under it.