Previewing The Remaining Games On Houston Texans’ Schedule
The Worst Isn't Over Yet: Challenging Games Still on Schedule for Houston Texans
The Houston Texans have faced a surprisingly difficult schedule so far in the 2013 season, as no team they've faced has less than two wins. They managed to defeat the 2-2 San Diego Chargers and the 3-1 Tennessee Titans with last-second heroics by Matt Schaub and Brian Cushing, got blown out by the 2-2 Baltimore Ravens, and lost in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks thanks to some last-second heroics by Richard Sherman (or last-second ineptitude by Schaub, depending on your perspective). Looking back, this is certainly a challenging gauntlet to get through, but sadly it's not even the toughest group of games the Texans will face in 2013.
Thankfully, the toughest part of the schedule doesn't hit right away. Houston faces a challenging but winnable game against the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday night, then a relatively easy game against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, October 13. The Kansas City Chiefs are even better than anyone expected, with Andy Reid coaching a 4-0 team for the first time since 2004. The Indianapolis Colts are a better team now with Trent Richardson on the roster, but the Texans have won the last two in Houston.
The third quarter of the schedule is perhaps the easiest, with games against the Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars and then an extremely challenging game against the New England Patriots. The Cardinals, Raiders and Jaguars are all winnable games, but that game against Tom Brady is extremely worrying.
Jacksonville eases the Texans in to the final four games of their schedule, but games in Indy (Texans have never won there), against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, and at Tennessee to end the season could prove to be the toughest stretch of the season.
The following slides are a more detailed examination of each of the 12 remaining games on the Texans' schedule.
At San Francisco 49ers -- Sunday, October 6
The Houston Texans begin the second quarter of the season with a game in Candlestick Park against the San Francisco 49ers. I know that anyone who read my five toughest games for Houston Texans article will be quick to point out that I originally picked this game to be the toughest one on the Texans' schedule, and at the time it certainly did look that way.
Colin Kaepernick had a ridiculous partial season in 2012, putting up 2,498 yards passing, 679 yards rushing, 22 touchdowns and 10 turnovers. They were extremely deep at every position except wide receiver, and had a terrific defense.
These things are still true, and the defense still ranks third in opponents' passing yards per game (190.5). But, the defense is also allowing the 13th-most rushing yards per game (109.3) and has forced just five turnovers this season. Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman have performed well though, with Smith putting together 4.5 sacks already and Bowman tabbing 34 tackles.
Kaepernick has also underperformed, turning in average performances in every game except against the Green Bay Packers, when he threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns. In his other three games, he's yet to pass for 200 yards or run for more than 90. Teams seem to have figured him out a little bit more, causing him to turnover the ball four times to just five touchdowns.
Until last week, Frank Gore and the running game were pretty useless, not breaking 100 yards until last week against the St. Louis Rams. If their rushing attack has returned to its formidable stature from 2012, then that could spell a problem for the Texans, who are ranked 23rd in rushing defense. But I'm gonna go ahead and bet this was a fluke and that Gore & Co. will struggle again.
My prediction for this game: The Houston Texans win 24-17 after Matt Schaub throws for 300+ yards, two touchdowns and one INT, and Arian Foster runs for 150 yards with a touchdown.
St. Louis Rams -- Sunday, October 13
The St. Louis Rams come to Reliant Stadium on Sunday, October 13 at 12 pm. This should be a much easier game for the Texans as the Rams have been terrible for years. They ranked 12th in the league in passing yards per game (254.5), but that terrific passing output is hurt by and partially caused by their lack of a running game. They rank 32nd in the NFL in rushing with 47.3 yards per game.
Their defense isn't any better, ranking 18th in passing yards allowed per game (253.8) and 30th in rushing yards allowed per game (133.5).
The Texans, if everyone is healthy, should be able to make mincemeat of these guys. I predict Schaub fully rebounds to the 11-1 Schaub of 2012 in this game, passing for a little under 300 yards, three passing touchdowns and no interceptions. Foster and Ben Tate will combine for a little over 200 rushing yards with a touchdown between them. More importantly, J.J. Watt will put up at least two sacks and Andre Johnson will get his first TD catch of the season here (if he doesn't get it this week).
The Texans all-time record against the Rams: 1-1, with the visiting team winning each contest. The teams haven't faced each other since 2009, when the Texans won in St. Louis 16-13.
At Kansas City Chiefs -- Sunday, October 20
If anyone had told me at the beginning of the season that Alex Smith, Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs would be undefeated four weeks into the season, I would have laughed at them or recommended a psychiatric evaluation. But it's happened, and after their 31-7 drubbing of the New York Giants, I'm convinced they're for real.
Now they have had one of the easiest schedules that any 4-0 team has faced (0-4 Jacksonville, 2-2 Dallas Cowboys, 1-3 Philadelphia Eagles, and 0-4 Giants), but holding your opponents to just 41 points in four games in the NFL is an impressive feat nonetheless.
Offensively, the Chiefs are about average, ranking 22nd overall in passing (226.5 YPG) and 13th overall in rushing (120.8 YPG). Defensively, they've also allowed the eighth-most rushing yards (117.5 YPG). But their pass defense is great with just 188.8 YPG allowed, and Kansas City also has a +4 turnover ratio (five INT and one FUM REC to two INT thrown).
The Chiefs face the Titans this week, then they host the Raiders and Texans in back-to-back home games. I see the Chiefs beating the Titans with Jake Locker out, and the Raiders don't really present a challenge (especially without Terrelle Pryor). But the Texans will definitely get in their way with the best overall defense in the league and a very good offense as well. Prediction: Kansas City 35 -- Houston 27
Indianapolis Colts -- Sunday, November 3
The Indianapolis Colts also made my Top 5 Toughest Texans Opponents, coming in at no. 5. This proved to be a good pick, as the Colts are now 3-1 and sitting atop the AFC South. Indy has scored 105 points in four games, and allowed just 51. They have the 10th-best overall defense in the league, and the ninth-best overall offense.
Andrew Luck is one of the few freshman phenoms to not experience much of a "sophomore slump". He currently has a 91.9 rating with 918 yards passing, five touchdowns and two INT. Compare that to his 79.275 rating at this point last season with 1,208 passing yards, seven TDs and five INT. He isn't passing for as many yards or as many touchdowns, but he's also lowered his turnovers. This is partly due to a much-improved rushing attack, which went from 22nd in 2012 to third this season.
Ahmad Bradshaw is a wonderful addition to this team, and he's one of three Colts that have over 100 yards rushing. Luck and Donald Brown also have over 100 yards, and Trent Richardson was recently added to the roster after a trade with the Cleveland Browns. Richardson is a bruiser, but he's yet to crack that 100-yard mark. He does have two touchdowns though.
Robert Mathis has seven and a half sacks in just four games, and Jerrell Freeman has 30 tackles and three sacks himself. When the Texans and Colts meet up in Reliant Stadium a few weeks from now, it'll be a sack party between J.J. Watt and Mathis.
The Colts face the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday at noon on FOX, travel to Qualcomm Stadium to face the San Diego Chargers, face off against former Colt Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos in the "Horse Bowl" on NBC, and then the Colts have a bye week before facing the Texans. This is the hardest portion of Indy's schedule, and I expect losses to Seattle, Denver and Houston. Prediction: Texans keep the streak alive and beat them at home for the fourth year in a row. Final score: Texans 27 -- Colts 14
At Arizona Cardinals -- Sunday, November 10
The Arizona Cardinals are improved since 2012, but that isn't hard to do when your starting quarterbacks are John Skelton and whomever else played for them that season. Carson Palmer is now their quarterback, and he has brought the passing game up to 18th-best in the NFL. However, the running game is still terrible (26th), which is about what I expected from a Bruce Arians team.
The defense is terrific against the run with just 75 yards allowed on the ground per game. This could be a problem for the Texans, who are definitely a run-first team. If Schaub is still struggling at this point of the season, this could be a big trap game. Arizona ranks 20th against the pass, so there may be a little bit of leeway here.
I expect the Texans to use this game and the two games after it (hosting Oakland and Jacksonville) as their tune-up games heading into the final stretch of the season, in which they'll face four teams that could make the playoffs (and the Jaguars in Jacksonville, but that one doesn't really count).
If the Texans take this game seriously, they shouldn't struggle too much. I predict that the Texans will win by a final score of 21-14.
Oakland Raiders -- Sunday, November 17 at 12 pm on CBS
The Oakland Raiders haven't been a great team since 2002, and haven't made the playoffs or even had a winning season in the last 10 years. In other words, this game shouldn't pose too much of a challenge to the Texans.
Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden are relatively good athletes, but they can't do it all themselves. This team almost snuck out a win at Indianapolis, but then almost let Jacksonville win one in the O.co Coliseum the next week. They were trounced by Manning and the Broncos two weeks ago on Monday Night Football, and last week lost to the Washington Redskins by 10. Oakland ranks 26th in passing yards per game, but almost makes up for that with a sixth overall ranking in rush yards per game. Their defense is about average, ranking 14th in passing yards allowed and 21st in rushing yards allowed.
In four games this season, the Raiders have just one turnover, a fumble recovery. They've turned the ball over four times (three interceptions and one fumble). Even though they're averaging about two and half sacks a game, Oakland is allowing 3.5 sacks a game. When you're not out-gaining your opponents in any category but rushing yards, you're not going to win a lot of games.
Having to face the Colts, Broncos (twice), Chargers(twice), Chiefs (twice), Texans, Titans and Cowboys this season is probably not very fair for the "Men in Black" at this point in the franchise's history. Thankfully, they also get to play the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and Giants in consecutive games.
If I was a betting man, I'd take any bet that the Raiders would beat the Texans this season. The Texans are better across the board. They have better ownership, better coaching staff, a better quarterback, better running backs, a better receiving core, better offensive and defensive lines and a better defensive backfield. Final score in this game: Texans 35 -- Raiders 17
Jacksonville Jaguars -- Sunday, November 24
The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of two teams that make my heart hurt for the fans of that franchise (the other being the Cleveland Browns). Jacksonville has never won a Super Bowl and hasn't even made the playoffs since 2007. However, "Jags" fans don't need me to tell them about all of this.
Could Maurice Jones-Drew possibly be healthy and relevant again by the time the Texans host them eight weeks from now? If he does somehow recover some of the MJD mojo from 2007-2009, Jacksonville would really be helped out. Right now, the Jags sit at 31st in the NFL in rushing yards per game (49.0) and 30th in passing yards per game (175). They've only scored more than 10 points once this season, and are averaging about a touchdown a game. Their poor home crowd has seen them score five points total in two home games.
On defense, the Jags aren't too bad in passing yards allowed, ranking 11th with 222 per game. But they're dead last in opponents rushing yards with 164.3 YPG. I honestly could see this team being worse than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers teams of the 1970s, the 2008 Detroit Lions and the 2009 St. Louis Rams. The Texans play them twice, and I honestly think the Jags will struggle to score more than 20 points total in those two games. That being said, there is the tiniest possibility that the Texans will go into this game looking ahead to next week against the Patriots, and they could lose by a touchdown.
My prediction: Texans 45 -- Jaguars 7
My other prediction: This game will be the hardest to find on TV all year as no one will want to cover another Jags blowout.
New England Patriots -- Sunday, December 1
No matter who is on their roster or how else the season is going, the New England Patriots, have the Texans' number. In five meetings, the Texans have won only one game, and have lost by 20 points in every defeat since 2003.
Tom Brady is still being Brady, and the Pats should have Rob Gronkowski back by the time this meeting comes. New England is currently undefeated, although all but one win has been by seven points or less. They're currently ranked 17th in passing yards per game, 11th in rushing yards per game and have scored 89 points in four games. Defensively, they're about average at 17th in passing and 14th in rushing. However, the Pats also have a +6 turnover ratio, with five interceptions on defense to just two from Brady, and five fumbles on defense to just two by any Patriot. This is important in the matchup as the Texans are really struggling in the turnover department. They're at -4 with seven offensive turnovers to just three by the defense.
I expect another tough loss to the Pats, as this game could be for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. However, the good news is that what New England has done so far has been done with rookies like Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson as their receivers, and LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley as their running backs.
Final score prediction: New England 35 -- Houston 21
At Jacksonville Jaguars -- Thursday, December 5
To all of those Texans fans who only have basic cable and therefore don't get the NFL Network, I'm sorry you won't be able to watch this game unless you live in the Houston area (or I guess you can watch it illegally, but I'm not condoning that). That said, it won't be much of a game. Either the Texans will come into this game wanting to run as much as possible and get it over with, or they'll come in mad and pumped up after the New England game and destroy this team. Either way, this is not going to be a pretty game for Jags fans.
You've already read my previous post about how terrible the Jags are, so here's the prediction: Texans 35 -- Jags 3
At Indianapolis Colts -- Sunday, December 15
This game is the grandaddy of them all for the Texans. They've never won in Indianapolis in the history of the Texans. That's an 0-11 mark. This game will also be important because it very well could determine who wins the AFC South; the Texans for the third year in a row, or the Colts for the eighth time.
Make sure you set your DVR for this game, or skip that lunch after church. This game will be great to watch, no matter the outcome.
My prediction: Texans 21 Colts 17
Denver Broncos-Sunday, December 22 at 12 on CBS
The Denver Broncos legitimately scare me this year. On my current "top fears" list is 1) spiders, 2) falling to my death and 3) a picture of Peyton Manning's face. He's currently on pace to break pretty much every passing record there is (except for most interceptions thrown--that one stays with you, Brett Farve). The Broncos rank first in passing yards per game, and Manning has yet to throw a pick. There's honestly a good chance he won't before this game. He's had fewer under- or overthrown balls this season than some teams have had in one game. Yes the rushing attack is just average, but does it really need to be that great when you're throwing the ball over 300 yards every game?
The passing defense is atrocious, so the Texans have some hope there. The Broncos are ranked 30th in the pass, allowing 316.3 yards per game through the air. But they're also amazing against the run, allowing just 74.0 yards per game. If the run game struggles, the play-action pass will struggle even more, which means the Broncos defense might not have to work that hard.
My prediction: Peyton continues his ridiculous season and puts up 355 yards passing with three touchdowns through the air. BUT he also throws a pick, and Schaub duels him to a respectable 300+ yards with two touchdowns and a pick. The Texans have already faced one giant this year (the Seachickens) and lost the game more than Seattle won. So I give the Texans a 45 percent chance of winning this game.
Final score: Denver-35 Houston-31
At Tennessee Titans-Sunday, December 29 at 12 on CBS
The Tennessee Titans end the season for the Texans, and at this point I see this one going the Texans' way. Yes, the Titans are surprisingly good, but they dominated the second half of that game defensively and has only gotten better the past few games. If Brian Cushing and J.J. Watt are still healthy at this point of the season, the game isn't that close. The Texans sweep the series for the second year in a row. If Jake Locker is more badly hurt than is currently thought, this game won't even be close.
Final score: Texans 24 -- Titans 10