Wild-card loss spoils Texans' return to top of AFC South

The Houston Texans ended the season with a 21-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday in the wild-card round of the playoffs. The Texans finished the regular season with an 11-5 record. Here's a recap of the season and what's next:

Season grade: Above average. The Texans overcame an 0-3 start to win the AFC South division title. A nine-game winning streak helped Houston become the first team since 1992 to begin the season with an 0-3 record and win a division title.

Season in review: The 2018 season featured the return of All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who registered 16 sacks, making himself a legitimate contender for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, safety Tyrann Mathieu and linebacker Benardrick McKinney spearheaded a defense that finished fourth in scoring defense, allowing 19.8 points per game.

Coach Bill O'Brien's offense averaged 27 points per game during the nine-game winning streak and survived the loss of wide receiver Will Fuller V in Week 7. Through seven games, Fuller had 503 receiving yards and four touchdowns. The Texans added veteran wideout Demaryius Thomas at the trade deadline, which helped make up for the loss of Fuller. Quarterback Deshaun Watson continued to wreak havoc on opposing defenses and DeAndre Hopkins finished with 115 receptions for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns.

He said it: "Look at the season. Starting 0-3, tacking on nine and winning 10 of the last 12, we earned the right to be here. It's a new year, a new season. This is the hardest business, it's top notch and a whole new speed of the game. Every play counts and every moment counts. You can't slip up." -- Watson

Offseason questions

How can the Texans do a better job of protecting Watson? Houston has to invest further in the offensive line. Watson was sacked an average of 3.9 times per game during the regular season -- the highest total in the NFL -- and he was sacked three times in Saturday's loss to Indianapolis. He needs more time in the pocket, but not all of the blame should be placed on the offensive line. Watson does a great job of extending plays and breaking free of would-be tacklers, but there are other times when he holds onto the ball too long. Regardless, adding more talent up front is a must.

What should Houston do at running back? Starter Lamar Miller has one more year left on the four-year contract that lured him to Houston. At 28-years-old, Miller will hold a $7.2 million salary-cap number, but if he gets released he will only cost the team $1 million in dead cap money. There are some prospects such as Darrell Henderson from Memphis who can come in and challenge for a spot. Reserve back D'Onta Foreman spent most of the season on injured reserve after tearing his Achilles in November 2017, but should be a part of the backfield going forward.

Is Mathieu a necessity to re-sign? Mathieu brought a killer instinct to the secondary, and his ability to be used in the box as well as in center field is a testament to his versatility. Keeping him paired with Justin Reid, who is coming off a stellar rookie season, is something Houston needs to do. Mathieu finished the regular season with three sacks, two interceptions and eight pass breakups. There will be other safeties on the market, but the Texans have already seen what they have in Mathieu. He's a fit in the locker room and can continue to be a veteran presence next to Reid.