Like many people who cover the NFL in some capacity, I did a season preview for the team that I cover (a preview you can go back and relive, if you'd like). And six weeks in, all that can really be gleaned from said preview is just how futile it is to try to preview and predict the NFL these days.
My preview for the Houston Texans presumed a) Tom Savage would be the starter at QB longer than 30 minutes, b) Duane Brown would be the left tackle, c) J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus would both last longer than one series into Week Five for the season, and d) if Deshaun Watson did play, he would resemble a rookie QB, not a fifth-year pro.
So with all of that thrown into my formula for projecting a team's won-loss record (the vaunted "Pendergast Method"!), I forecasted the Texans to be 7-9 on the season, including a 2-4 record through six games. But here they sit at 3-3, and none of the things I factored in above are currently true, so let's recalibrate how we think this season is going to go the rest of the way, knowing full well that all of our assumptions could be rendered moot by Thanksgiving weekend.
Here are the ten remaining games:
Sunday, October 29 at Seattle
Sunday, November 5 vs. Indianapolis
Sunday, November 12 at Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, November 19 vs. Arizona
Monday, November 27 at Baltimore
Sunday, December 3 at Tennessee
Sunday, December 10 vs. San Francisco
Sunday, December 17 at Jacksonville
Monday, December 25 vs. Pittsburgh
Sunday, December 31 at Indianapolis
So let's categorize this under the Pendergast Method. Here is a friendly reminder as to what my self-named method entails:
These are games that, to have any chance of making the playoffs, the Texans have to cash in on. Worst case, you can have one mulligan, but lose two of these games and you’re probably not a double-digit-win team.
Games that could go either way and will likely be played within one score. To make the playoffs, the Texans need to win more of these games than they lose.
Games in which the Texans will likely be an underdog of five points or more against teams that they have historically struggled with, match up poorly with or have to play in a hostile environment in potentially adverse conditions. If you’re going to be a playoff team, you probably need to win at least one of these along the way.
Here is how I would categorize the remaining ten games on the schedule, followed by comments about each category:
MUST WINS: vs. IND, vs. ARZ, vs. SF, at IND
COIN FLIPPERS: at LAR, at BAL, at TEN, at JAC
STEALS: at SEA, vs. PIT
The two Colts games are in this category under the assumption that Andrew Luck is done for the season. If Jacoby Brissett is their starting QB, with that roster, that's one of the three or four worst teams in football. I am going to call Arizona, with Carson Palmer showing his age and the game falling on Andre Johnson Day, a must win, and San Francisco is competitive for a winless team (if that's like saying "they have a really nice personality"). They need to go 4-0, 3-1 at ABSOLUTE worst, in these four games.
These four are all road games, which makes them inherently tough, but the only one that should be a raucous atmosphere is Baltimore on Monday Night, and even that could be muted if the Ravens are out of the hunt by then. The good news is the Texans win the QB battle in all four of these games.
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Seattle on the road this weekend will be Deshaun Watson's toughest test all year, in both personnel and environment. Pittsburgh is closer to being a COIN FLIPPER than we may think, given Big Ben's road game issues, but let's be conservative and call it a Steal, for now.
Bill O'Brien has been 9-7 in each of his three seasons in Houston, but with a quarterback in place, 10-6 is all of a sudden a possibility. The formula to get there, in my opinion? Sweep the "MUST WIN" games, split the "COIN FLIPPER" games, and snag that Pittsburgh game on Christmas Day.
Easier said than done, but incredible that it's even possible, considering the trials this team has been handed thus far this season.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.