By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Steals: Road games in which the Texans will likely be an underdog of five points or more against teams that they've historically struggled with (Indianapolis), match up poorly with (New York Jets) or that they have to play in a hostile environment in potentially adverse conditions (Philadelphia in December on a Thursday night). If you're going to be a playoff team, as a rule, none of your home games can qualify for this category, and you probably need to win at least one of these along the way.
So where do the games on the 2010 slate stack up in the Pendergast Bucket Theory? Glad you asked, young grasshopper. Here you go:
Must wins, 6: @ Oakland, vs New York Giants, vs Kansas City, vs Tennessee, @ Denver, vs Jacksonville
Coin flippers, 7: vs Indianapolis, @ Washington, vs Dallas, vs San Diego, @ Jacksonville, vs Baltimore, @ Tennessee
Steals, 3: @ Indianapolis, @ New York Jets, @ Philadelphia
So the formula to get to the postseason is pretty simple — the Texans need to go 5-1 against the "must wins" (easily the part of the formula with which I'm most uncomfortable; none of those games are lay-ups), 4-3 in the "coin flippers" (split the home games, split Jacksonville and Tennessee on the road, beat Washington — very doable) and win a "steal" game (I'll go with Philly as the most likely).
If the Texans follow that formula, that equates to 10-6, which would have been good enough for a playoff berth in 2009. (Of course, in 2008, 11-5 wasn't good enough for the Patriots to make it, but that's because San Diego won the AFC West with an 8-8 record. That's obviously not the case this season; 10-6 should get it done.)
Just for fun, so you can see the Pendergast Bucket Theory at work, here's how I would have categorized the Texans' 2009 schedule on August 25, 2009:
Must wins, 6-2: vs New York Jets, vs Jacksonville, vs Oakland, @ Cincinnati, vs San Francisco, @ Buffalo, vs Seattle, @ St. Louis
Coin flippers, 3-3: @ Tennessee, vs Tennessee, vs Indianapolis, @ Jacksonville, @ Miami, vs New England
Steals, 0-2: @ Arizona, @ Indianapolis
So if you break it down, the Texans had one too many losses in the "must win" category (to be fair, the Jets ended up being a much better team than we thought they would be going into the season) and couldn't close the deal on stealing a win in Arizona or Indianapolis. In the end, success in the "steal" category is probably the biggest indicator of whether or not you had a playoff team to begin with. Good teams beat other good teams. The Texans built a 9-7 record largely beating up on inferior teams, another red flag that your playoff prediction is based on blind faith.
Let's go game by game and see if we'll be dancing in the streets of Kirby on January 2, raucously celebrating the right to travel to New York or Baltimore for a cold-weather wild-card-round matchup the weekend of January 8.
GAME BY GAME
Sunday, Sept. 12 – vs INDIANAPOLIS
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: The Texans are one of the few teams in the league that can stand toe to toe with Peyton Manning in a high-scoring shootout. Matt Schaub has improved every year, and the Colts' success in Reliant the last couple years has come largely from self-inflicted Texans' wounds (Rosencopter in 2008, Schaub fourth-quarter pick six in 2009). If the Texans protect Schaub, they can win this game. They're due, for God's sake.
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: It's the Colts, it's Peyton Manning and he's going to find whichever Texan is in there in place of Brian Cushing and send them to therapy mumbling Dallas Clark's name by the end of the night.
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Colts -3
PREDICTION: You don't get rich picking against Peyton Manning. Colts 34, Texans 27.BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER
Sunday, Sept. 19 – at Washington
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Because there are no hurricanes being forecast for Week 2 of the season, unlike 2008. Plus, if the Texans go 0-2, the feeding frenzy will make Ike seem like a midsummer drizzle. The Texans are the better team.
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: It's the week after the Colts, so win or lose in Week 1, there will be a letdown. Donovan McNabb changes the entire dynamic of this road game. Plus, in the history of student-versus-teacher matchups (student Kubiak vs. teacher Mike Shanahan), students are like 1-250 (the only win being Darth Vader striking down Obi-Wan Kenobi, and even then it actually made Obi-Wan more powerful as a forceghost...um, but I digress...)
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -1
PREDICTION: Start stocking up on water and sundries. Redskins 24, Texans 19.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER
Sunday, Sept. 26 – vs Dallas
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Because if 0-2 will get the sharks circling, 0-3 might actually have people throwing cinder blocks at Gary Kubiak while he tries to swim away from those big sharp-toothed suckers. Plus, Wade Phillips with his big goofy grin and clueless fist pumps looks like a fan who won the right to be coach for a day. Can't lose to that guy.
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: In September, Tony Romo is Joe Montana. In December, Tony Romo is Joe Namath (the drunk, sixtysomething version that was hitting on Suzy Kolber, not the version that won a Super Bowl). It's September.