The Houston Texans will start their regular season on Monday in San Diego against the San Diego Chargers at 9:20 p.m. CST. Many experts are picking the Texans, but this game is by no means a guaranteed entry in the win column.
San Diego is 4-0 all-time against the Texans, but hasn’t faced Houston since the 2010 NFL season, when the Chargers beat the Texans in Houston 29-23. Though the teams were definitely at different points in their respective developments than they are now, a 4-0 record is still a 4-0 record.
The Chargers finished 7-9 last season, missing the playoffs for the third straight season. This was their first losing record since 2003, and it cost head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith their jobs.
San Diego’s offense was the weak link in the 2012 chain, ranked 20th in points per game and 30th in yards per play in the league. To combat this problem and help renovate aging quarterback Phillip Rivers‘ career, the Chargers hired former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy as the head coach and former Indianapolis Colts vice president of football operations Tom Telesco as general manager.
If Rivers and running back Ryan Matthews continue their offensive struggles, then the Texans aren’t the team that the Chargers want to face. Houston ranked seventh in fewest yards per pass attempt, ninth in fewest yards per rushing attempt and ninth in fewest points allowed per game in 2012.
But there’s a distinct possibility that the Texans offense could struggle a little too. Arian Foster is making his very first appearance in 2013 Monday night, and the Chargers’ defense ranked fifth in the league in average yards per rushing attempt. The Bolts were also the ninth-best in the league in fewest points allowed per game in 2012.
The Bolts were fourth in the league in total sacks, and the Texans tied for fifth with the Minnesota Vikings. But while the Texans improved their defense with the return of a healthy Brian Cushing and the addition of a proven veteran in Ed Reed, the Chargers only notable addition was Manti Te’o.
This should be a season of regression for the Chargers, who are most likely entering a major rebuilding time and are just trying to keep the team afloat and appealing enough to San Diego to earn a new downtown stadium (the Qualcomm Stadium lease is on a year-by-year basis through 2020).
All indications are that the Texans will continue to improve in 2013 and may finally win more than one playoff game. They’re (mostly) healthy, they’ve made a few free agent splashes, they’ve added several big pieces in the draft and they’re overall deeper than they’ve ever been.
Prediction: while the Chargers will put up a lot more of a fight than most expect, the Texans will eventually win this game, 27-24.