With the start of the 2016 NFL season getting closer and closer, there’s plenty of talk about expectations going on. One expectation that many people have is that the AFC South division will be much tougher and more competitive this year than it has been in recent years, with the Colts, Texans, and Jaguars all figuring to compete and the Titans steadily improving as well.
With that said, there’s a pretty significant injury situation with the best player in the division (and arguably the best player in the NFL) that is worth monitoring. According to the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain, Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt had surgery on his back for a herniated disc that will cause him to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list. McClain notes, however, that Watt is expected back for Houston’s season opener. While McClain’s report denotes optimism, not everyone is as confident.
ESPN’s Tania Ganguli tweeted “don’t take those first 2 games for granted” with Watt, implying the possibility that the defensive end could miss time - which would be the first regular season game(s) missed in his career. NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport said that the recovery time is 6-8 weeks, though he later added that an eight-week recovery time is the best-case scenario. NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo reported that “it could take up to 10 weeks.”
The Colts will play the Texans twice this year, first in a week six Sunday Night Football game at Houston and then later in a week 14 matchup in Indianapolis. Even with a more conservative estimate of Watt’s recovery time, he should be back in time to play in the first meeting against the Colts (though whether he’ll be 100% or not at that time is still uncertain).
If he misses a couple of games earlier in the season, however, it would without a doubt be a big blow to the Texans. Watt has established himself among the league’s very best, with many believing him to be the best player in the NFL today. Since entering the league in 2011, he has won three Defensive Player of the Year awards (including in each of the past two seasons) and is a four-time first-team All-Pro. Last year, Watt led the NFL in sacks with 17.5 (2.5 more than anyone else).