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NFL Houston Texans

10 Key Players That Will Lead The Houston Texans To 2013 Playoffs

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Houston Texans 2013 Playoff Shoe-In

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Finishing 12-4 last year, the Houston Texans won their second straight AFC South Division Championship. There were many times last season that the Texans were not just Super Bowl contenders, but Super Bowl favorites. However, after a few injuries and late season losses, Houston entered the playoffs losers of three of their last four games. The Texans were able to win their Wildcard matchup over the Cincinnati Bengals, but their season ended the next week with a Divisional Round loss to the New England Patriots.

With a few key offseason additions and the return of most of their top players, the Texans seem playoff bound once again. Obviously we are still a ways away from the start of the NFL regular season and things can certainly change with the Draft next week, but the Texans are the closest thing to a postseason shoe-in in the AFC South.

The Texans have plenty of playmakers on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, which makes them a serious threat in the AFC. I wouldn’t be surprised if they finally made it over the Divisional Round hump, and made a run at the Lombardi Trophy this year.

Although many other AFC teams can make a case as Super Bowl hopefuls, the overall star power of the Texans is hard to ignore. Expect the Texans core of Pro Bowl players to help them win yet another AFC South crown in 2013.

Many guys figure to play key roles in the Texans’ success this year, but here are the ten most important players that will lead the Texans to the playoffs and maybe even the Super Bowl this season.

Matt Malecha is a writer for Follow him on Twitter @MattMalecha and add him to your network on Google.

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Andre Johnson

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Ever since he entered the league back in 2003, Andre Johnson has been one of the NFL’s most productive wide receivers. Johnson was finally healthy again last year, and it certainly showed. The 31-year-old wide out set a career high in receiving yards with 1,598. Although Johnson is on the back nine of his Hall of Fame career, he is still one of the top big play threats in the NFL. Johnson can play the role of a possession receiver as well, making him a huge reason the Texans figure to be headed to the playoffs this year.

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Arian Foster

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Arian Foster jumped onto the NFL scene back in 2010 with 16 rushing TD and 1,616 rushing yards. Since his break out season, the Texans' running back has remained one of the league’s top backs. Foster led the entire NFL with 15 rushing TD last year, and he was elected to his third straight Pro Bowl. The 26-year-old running back has arguably the most skill of any back in the AFC, and he’ll hope to catapult the Texans to the postseason again this year.

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Ben Tate

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Ben Tate might be the Texans' backup running back, but he definitely has the talent to start in the NFL. With the injury history of Arian Foster, Tate is not only a great third down back, but he could also be a long-term fill-in if needed. Tate is the thunder to Foster’s lightning, and he will be an under the radar player that impacts the Texans playoff hopes.

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Brian Cushing

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Heading into Week 5 last season, Brian Cushing was putting together another stellar year. However, the inside linebacker suffered a left knee injury which ended his season. With Cushing expected to be ready come the start of the 2013 season, it would be foolish to have any doubts in the 26-year-old linebacker. Cushing is one of the most competitive players in the NFL, and as long as he’s on the field, he should help the Texans win the AFC South this year.

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Duane Brown

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The Texans have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and really any one of their lineman could be on this list. Duane Brown, however, is the Houston lineman that stands out the most to me. The former first-round draft pick was selected to his first Pro Bowl last year, and he’s a key reason the Texans' running game is among the league's best. Expect the 6’4, 320 pound tackle to have another Pro Bowl year, and he, along with the other members of the Texans offensive line, will have a huge say in Houston’s success in 2013.

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Ed Reed

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After winning the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens last year, Ed Reed became a free agent. Already a future Hall of Famer, Reed was a very appealing free agent for many teams. After weighing his options, the safety decided to sign with the Texans. Although he’s 34-years-old, Reed is still one of the best ball-hawking defensive backs in the NFL. Reed figures to be a veteran leader on Houston’s defense, and if the Texans reach the playoffs, he’ll deserve much of the credit.

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J.J. Watt

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After an impressive 2010-2011 rookie campaign, J.J. Watt headed into last season with extremely high expectations. Watt not only met these expectations, he completely shattered them. The 24-year-old defensive end was named the 2012 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year and was selected to his first Pro Bowl. With 20.5 sacks, Watt also led the entire NFL in sacks. Watt gives some of the most resilient effort in the league, and he alone makes the Texans' defense one of the best in the AFC. If Houston is once again able to win the AFC South this year, Watt will be a huge reason why.

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Matt Schaub

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The discussion of which NFL quarterbacks should be considered elite is always heated and opinionated. Matt Schaub is one of the QBs that is usually highly debated as elite or not. Although I’m not ready to call Schaub a top NFL QB, I do believe he is capable of leading the Texans to a Super Bowl. Of the eight quarterbacks that completed over 350 passes last season, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers were the only play callers to throw less interceptions than Schaub. As long as he can continue to make plays while still protecting the football, Schaub will lead the Texans to their third straight playoff appearance.

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Owen Daniels

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Owen Daniels is one of the most underrated tight ends in the NFL. Daniels is extremely dangerous off of the play-action fake, and he seems to come up with crucial first down catches almost every game. Catching 62 passes for 716 yards last year, the Texans' TE will look to once again be a key component in the team's playoff push this season.

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Shane Lechler

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Although punters are usually not high profile players, they can certainly be game changers. The Texans were able to sign one of the league’s top punters this offseason in Shane Lechler. Spending his first 13 years in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders, Lechler has been an excellent punter his entire career. A seven-time Pro Bowler, Lechler will look to give the Texans' special teams an extra boost, which could earn Houston a playoff berth in 2013.