It is an exciting time to be a Houston Texans fan. A new beginning awaits the worst team in the NFL last season. There is a new coaching staff assembled by Bill O’Brien, possibly a new quarterback of the future to be named; and hey, do not forget that Houston holds the number one pick of the draft. The hope for a quick turnaround has been solidified by having the third-softest projected schedule in the league. To make matters even better for the Texans, the AFC South is not exactly the strongest division in the league. The Texans are practically a quarterback away from contending with the Colts. Houston does not play a 2013 playoff team until week 6 when they take on their hated division rival, Indianapolis Colts; and will only take on three 2013 playoff teams the whole year. The only downside of their new schedule is that there will not be many prime time football games for the Houston Texans this year; they have only two night games on schedule.
Houston’s schedule will be reviewed by quarters in each paragraph, starting with weeks one through four. The first game of the year, Houston will welcome the Washington Redskins to Reliant Stadium; then the following two games will be on the road as they visit the Oakland Raiders and the New York Giants. Houston will return home against the Buffalo Bills for the fourth game of the new season. A few highlights here are that the Texans will be taking on their former defensive end and quarterback, Antonio Smith and Matt Schaub, in the week two showdown with Oakland. None of their first four opponents made the playoffs or had a winning record last season, which leaves Houston in a prime position to start the season off with a bang; with the possibility of winning all four.
The second quarter of the season gets a little tougher as they finally take on two division foes–one of whom made the playoffs last year–and play their only two night games of the season. In week five the Texans will make the hike up north to take on “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys. Then Houston will make their first night appearance on Thursday Night Football as they welcome division rivals, the Indianapolis Colts; followed by another night game in Pittsburgh where they will take on the Steelers on Monday Night Football. To finish off the first half of the season the Tennessee Titans will host Houston at noon on Sunday in week 8. The first eight games will be a crucial indicator of how the Texans will fair for the rest of the season. If Houston can come out of the first eight games with a winning record, they will be in great shape heading into the final half of the season.
The third quarter of the season kicks off with a bang. Before the Texans head into their bye in week 10, they will have to host NFC East Division Champions, the high-octane Philadelphia Eagles. Week 10 will be a great reprieve for the Texans as they line up their final seven games remaining–four of them at Reliant Stadium. When Houston makes its return from the off-week, they will be heading to Ohio to take on the Cleveland Browns in week 12, then return home to take on another Ohio team, the Cincinnati Bengals. Back-to-back home games will hep rest them though, as Tennessee treads the tracks onward to Houston in week 13. Two tough Ohio squads will test their metal in the third quarter of the year, and Philly will definitely test their pass defense in week 9. The week 10 bye comes at an opportune time, as it provides a week of rest sorely needed for the aches and pains of a grueling season.
The final four weeks have now come, and whether or not the Texans have remained in the hunt for the playoffs up to this point should be evident. To kick off the final quarter of the season Houston will head out on a two-game road trip. They will face the Jacksonville Jaguars for the first time this season, and will head to Indianapolis to take on the Colts, ending their road games for the year in week 15. The final two home games against the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars may decide their season fate as the league approaches the playoffs. The Colts will more than likely be jockeying for a playoff spot and a division title, and who knows, the Texans may possibly be in the mix for a Wild Card spot as well. The lack of strength in the schedule and the talented core of Houston can almost certainly make a claim for a playoff spot toward the end of the season. It all depends on how the Houston players adapt to the new head coaching style under Bill O’Brien, and if the Texans finally solved their quarterback conundrum. All things are possible on NFL Sunday and Houston can almost certainly be a dark horse on the horizon.
Commentary by Justin Huffman