The Texans, after squeaking into the playoffs last year at 9-7, have a much more difficult slate of games in 2016. Other than their six divisional games, Houston will also face the AFC West, NFC North, and the first place finishers from the AFC North and AFC East. They will have five primetime games this season.
Some schedule highlights include a Thursday night game at New England, a Monday night contest vs. Oakland in Mexico City, a Christmas Eve contest vs. Cincinnati, a Sunday night vs. the Colts, and a Monday night at Denver. To be sure, Houston has a much tougher schedule than they did a year ago.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at what Houston will face this coming season.
Week 1 (9/11): Home vs. Chicago
Houston fans will be hyped to open the Brock Osweiler/Lamar Miller era. Look for NRG to be a very raucous atmosphere. The Bears lost Matt Forte and Martellus Bennet. They added Danny Trevathan, Jerell Freeman, and Akiem Hicks. Jay Cutler has a good young running back in Jeremy Langford, and a star wideout in Alshon Jefferey, but he’s still Jay Cutler. This is a good opportunity for Houston to get off to a fast start.
Key draft picks: Leonard Floyd (OLB), Cody Whitehair (OG), Jonathan Bullard (DT), Nick Kwiatkowski (ILB)
Week 2 (9/18): Home vs. Kansas City
The Texans will quickly get a chance to face the Chiefs again after getting demolished by KC in the playoffs. This time, they will be without Brian Hoyer and his 5 turnovers. Osweiler has some familiarity with the Chiefs because of his time spent in the AFC West. Kansas City will not have Justin Houston, but they will have Jamaal Charles back. The Texans will need to contain Charles and have a better plan to stop Travis Kelce this time around. Houston should atone for last year’s debacle.
Key draft picks: Chris Jones (DT), Keivaraie Russell (CB), Parker Ehinger (OG), Eric Murray (CB)
Week 3 (9/22): Thursday night at New England
The Patriots have had the Texans number for a long time. Houston hasn’t beaten New England since week 17 of the 2009 season. Playing in Foxboro on a Thursday night is typically not the best remedy for that situation. However, Tom Brady may be serving a suspension, which should give Texans fans hope.
I expect Houston to put up more of a fight than they did in last year’s 27-6 loss, but the Patriots are just in another class. Belichick will have his team ultra-prepared and Houston has just never had an answer for the Pats. Even without Brady, Gronk is an unstroppable force. New England traded away Chandler Jones for Jonathan Cooper to shore up the offensive line. They also added Terrance Knighton, Chris Long, and Martellus Bennett.
Key draft picks: Cyrus Jones (CB), Joe Thuney (OG), Jacoby Brissett (QB), Vincent Valentine (DT)
Week 4 (10/2): Home vs. Tennessee
The Titans have been very active this offseason. They acquired DeMarco Murray, Rishard Matthews, Rashad Johnson, and Ben Jones. They also traded away the top overall pick to the Rams for a slew of extra selections.
Houston didn’t have to face Marcus Mariota last year. His ability to use his legs could give them problems, but the Titans haven’t been able to block for him very well. Watt has had some big games against Tennessee and this should be no different.
Key draft picks: Jack Conklin (OT), Kevin Dodd (DT), Austin Johnson (NT), Derrick Henry (RB)
Week 5 (10/9): At Minnesota
The Vikings were a surprise playoff team last year, and should have beaten the Seahawks had it not been for a missed 27-yard field goal in the waning seconds. Teddy Bridgewater does well to manage the game and get the ball into the hands of Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph, and electric young receiver, Stefon Diggs. The Vikings defense is very solid, and will give Houston fits. This will be a very tough test for Houston.
Key draft picks: Laquon Treadwell (WR), Mackensie Alexander (CB), Willie Beavers (OT), Kentrell Brother (OLB)
Week 6 (10/16): Home Sunday Night vs. Indianapolis
In their second primetime game of the year, Houston welcomes the rival Colts to NRG Stadium. Andrew Luck should be back and at full health. He will still have Frank Gore behind him, but lost Coby Fleener to free agency. Texan-killer T.Y. Hilton is always a concern as are Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen, and Phillip Dorsett. I still don’t know if the Colts can block for Luck, and their defense is suspect. Houston will be up to the challenge here.
Key draft picks: Ryan Kelly (C), T.J. Green (FS), La’Raven Clark (OT), Hassan Ridgway (DT)
Week 7 (10/24): Monday Night at Denver
The big storyline here will be Osweiler’s return to Denver. But perhaps the bigger question right now is who will be under center for the Broncos? Will it be Mark Sanchez, Paxton Lynch, or Trevor Simian? What we do know is that Osweiler couldn’t wait to get out of Denver. He definitely has a chip on his shoulder.
The Broncos not only lost him, but also Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, Evan Mathis, and David Bruton. The defense is still formidable, but Wade Phillips-coached units have been known to backslide in their second year. This should be an entertaining game, but I think Osweiler will have the last laugh.
Key draft picks: Paxton Lynch (QB), Adam Gotsis (DT), Justin Simmons (FS), Devontae Booker (RB)
Week 8 (10/30): Home vs. Detroit
The Lions were a dumpster fire for most of last season, but managed to put together a few wins here and there. Matt Stafford is hot and cold, and will now be without the retired Calvin Johnson. They’ve added Marvin Jones and Jeremy Kerley, and have a dangerous young back in Ameer Abdullah. They are still the Lions and this is a game that Houston should definitely win at home.
Key draft picks: Taylor Decker (OT), A’Shawn Robinson (DT), Graham Glascow (C), Miles Killebrew (SS)
Week 9: BYE
Week 10 (11/13): At Jacksonville
The Jaguars will be far from pushovers this season. Blake Bortles is coming off a year where he threw 35 touchdowns, but also 18 interceptions. He has the Allen brothers, Robinson and Hurns on the outside, and Julius Thomas at tight end. They also added Chris Ivory to pair with T.J. Yeldon in the backfield.
On defense, they will see the return of former third overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. to go along with free agent acquisitions Malik Jackson and Tashuan Gipson. The Jags also hit it big in the draft when they landed Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack. I see this game being competitive and something tells me the Jaguars will steal it.
Key draft picks: Jalen Ramsey (CB), Myles Jack (OLB), Yannick Ngakoue (DE), Sheldon Day (DT)
Week 11 (11/21): Monday Night vs. Oakland in Mexico City
This should be a fun game at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The Raiders will undoubtedly have more fans than Houston, but the atmosphere will be electric. Oakland is definitely trending upward. Derek Carr is the real deal, Latavious Murray is solid, Amari Cooper is a budding star, and veteran Michael Crabtree enjoyed a resurgent year in 2015.
On defense, Khalil Mack was an all-pro at two different positions, and they added edge rusher Bruce Irvin from the Seahawks. They also added safety Reggie Nelson and corner Sean Smith. This should be a hard fought contest, but Houston finds a way to win.
Key draft picks: Karl Joseph (SS), Jihad Ward (DE), Shilique Calhoun (DE), DeAndre Washington (RB)
Week 12 (11/27): Home vs. San Diego
The Chargers had all kinds of problems last season, particularly in pass protection. They were devastated by a spate of injuries to key guys, and Phillip Rivers was forced to carry the load. Rivers is a great quarterback, but can only do so much.
Malcolm Floyd retired, but Keenan Allen will be back, and they’ve added the speedy Travis Benjamin. Melvin Gordon had a disappointing rookie campaign, so it’s hard to predict how he will come back. Danny Woodhead is always dangerous, but I think the Texans take care of business here.
Key draft picks: Joey Bosa (DE), Hunter Henry (TE), Max Tuerk (C), Joshua Perry (ILB)
Week 13 (12/4): At Green Bay
The last time the Texans played the Packers was a Sunday Night affair in 2012 at home. All Aaron Rodgers did was throw six touchdown passes in route to a 42-24 Packers blowout. This is a December game at Lambeau Field where it promises to be about -1,000 degrees by kickoff. For a Houston team that’s used to playing indoors, it’s a monumental task. Jordy Nelson will be back to pair up with Randall Cobb. Eddie Lacy has reportedly slimmed down and is looking for a big year. No way Houston wins this one.
Key draft picks: Kenny Clark (DT), Jason Spriggs (OT), Kyler Fackrell (ILB), Blake Martinez (LB)
Week 14 (12/11): At Indianapolis
The Texans finally managed to beat the Colts in Indy last year for the first time ever. But they did it against Matt Hasselbeck. They will face Andrew Luck this time, and it won’t be nearly as easy. The Colts will defend their home turf here and send the Texans home with another loss.
Week 15 (12/18): Home vs. Jacksonville
After being defeated by the Jaguars in week 10, Houston will exact some revenge. J.J. Watt will be in Bortles’ ear all game long, and the defense will shut down the Jags.
Week 16 (12/24): Home vs. Cincinnati
We all remember what happened last season, when Houston took down a then undefeated Bengals team in their own house on a Monday Night. This time the Bengals will visit NRG in search of some redemption. Cincy lost Marvin Jones and added Brandon LaFell. Their defense, especially the front seven, will again be very tough to deal with. Something tells me that the Bengals will get their revenge.
Key draft picks: William Jackson III (CB), Tyler Boyd (WR), Nick Vigil (ILB), Andrew Billings (NT)
Week 17 (1/1/17): At Tennessee
The Texans travel to Nashville to finish off the year. Who knows what they will be playing for at this point, but I see no reason why Houston doesn’t win this one.
Way too early prediction:
There are so many factors yet to be determined. How will Osweiler and Miller perform? Can the rookies make an immediate impact? Will the offensive line hold up? How will injuries affect the season? So many questions right now, so these predictions are way too early, but nevertheless fun to do.
I think Osweiler and Miller will be just fine and the offensive line will come together. Houston has added some versatile offensive weapons as well as O-line depth. The defense will be just as good, if not better than last year, and the Texans will be very competitive throughout the season.