Texans are back in the playoffs, but how far can they go?

Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson (25) rushes for a gain as Tennessee Titans defensive back Tramaine Brock (35) defends during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

The Houston Texans are in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons, which is great.

But what we all want to know is how deep into the playoffs can his edition of Texans go. Lost year it ended it all ended in great disappointed when the Texans entered the Wildcard round of the playoffs as the AFC South champs, but were stomped by division rival Indianapolis, 21-7, at NRG Stadium.

Here we are again with a similar scenario. The Texans are the AFC South champs, playing the Wildcard round on Saturday afternoon at NRG, this time against the Buffalo Bills.

But what’s different about this season?

Much of the core of the Texans have returned this season, including quarterback Deshaun Watson, receiver DeAndre Hopkins, inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney and very likely star defensive end J.J. Watt.

But it’s some of the experienced additions that could change the postseason fortunes of the Texans this time around. They have added veteran help like Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil, deepened the receiving corp with the addition of Kenny Stills and on the defensive side bringing in players like cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Gareon Conley and Tashaun Gipson has turned an area of weakness into one of strength.

“Every year is different but I think we have a great mixture of young guys and veteran guys,” said veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph. “We have guys who have won Super Bowls and been on championship teams before.”

It seemed like there could be a drop off this season with the loss of running back Lamar Miller before the season due to injury and then the abrupt departure of pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney. But the  acquiring Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson has improved the rushing attack and Whitney Mercilus has re-emerged as a pass rush threat.

“There’s a lot of things I feel good about. I feel good about a lot of things. I wouldn’t list them,” said Texans coach Bill O’Brien. “I just think we’ve got a good football team that’s excited about getting going.”

Experience is the best teacher

If the young Texans learned last season that the playoffs are different ball game. 

“When the postseason comes around it’s a different speed,” said second-year safety Justin Reid. “You are nearly playing for your life out there, so you just have to be dialed in. I had that one game last year and I still got a bitter taste in my mouth from it and I have an opportunity to redeem that and to be able to get a win at home and be able to move to the next round.”

Inconsistencies this season

As improved as the Texans roster may be this season there has still be the issue of inconsistency at times.

There is the head-scratching loss to Denver that stood in the way of the No.2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoff. Then there has been chunks of yardage given up to opposing running backs these past few weeks, including this past week when Titans back Derrick Henry gauged the Texans for 211 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries.

 “I know we’ve been inconsistent, but we were 10-6,” O’Brien said. “It wasn’t very good today. I said that about inconsistency, and I was right. I just think we’ve had some pretty good wins here, and we’ve won the division two years in a row, four out of five, and I think that’s okay. We’re going to try our best to do better in the playoffs. I think that’s really important.”

Follow Terrance Harris on Twitter @terranceharris.