Texan fans should want to go to Arizona to see J.J. Watt in person in Week 7.Photo by Eric Sauseda
Back in the day, before I started doing the postgame show for the Houston Texans on Texans Radio, my then-girlfriend-now-wife Amy and I would travel to a couple of Texans road games each season. Some of our best memories as a couple are, depending on the stadium, either cavorting with or talking trash to opposing fans.
Some seasons had better road schedules than others. For example, the years where the Texans have a bunch of AFC North games were a little tough to find fun trips. However, oddly enough, the devastating 2013 season had two of the most enjoyable road trips — San Diego and San Francisco — in our time as fans.
Traveling to follow your team is a big part of the fun of being a diehard fan. There are only eight road games, so they're each a big event, and if you choose the right games in the proper cities, you can make a really nice weekend out of it. I'd grade the road schedule this season overall as a solid B+ or A-. Let's stack rank these trips empirically, based on the total score of my subjective ratings (on a scale of 1 to 10) in these four categories:
Weather: How nice will it be on game day? (The Texans only play one game indoors, the finale in Indy.)
Intangibles: How nice is the stadium? Now nice is the city? How convenient is the trip? (Any random mitigating or aggravating circumstance are grouped in here.)
Extracurricular: How's the nightlife, the amount of activities to do on non-game days, and the grub? (I included a Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives choice for each city, with a YouTube link. You're welcome!)
Win: Simply, what are the chances the Texans can pull off a win?
Here we go...
8. JACKSONVILLE (TIAA Bank Field, Sunday December 19)
TOTAL SCORE: 18 This is easily the bets chance for the Texans to win a road game this season, but honestly, who cares? The optimal time for a trip to Jacksonville would be earlier in the season, when the beach is still firmly in play. Whatever the case, this trip will serve as a nice early Christmas present for the diehard Texan fan in your family, and not much else.
7. INDIANAPOLIS (Lucas Oil Stadium, Sunday, October 17)
TOTAL SCORE: 19 The divisional games always tend to be at the bottom of these rankings, because there's little uniqueness about them. Indianapolis is a fun town, with some great bars and restaurants (St. Elmo's Steakhouse... try the shrimp cocktail!), but the nice fall weather won't really matter inside a dome.
6. SAN FRANCISCO (Levi's Stadium, Sunday January 2)
TOTAL SCORE: 20 The Bay Area has always been a trademark tourist area, in a good way, and in most seasons this trip would rank higher on the list. However, the January date hurts the weather factor, and there will certainly be a "playing out the string" factor on this game, so late in the season. bonus points for New Year's in San Fran! Negative bonus points for the cost of New Year's in San Fran.
5. TENNESSEE (Nissan Stadium, Sunday November 21)
TOTAL SCORE: 22 Of the three divisional road trips, Tennessee will always stack up with a head start, with all of the nightlife and live music in Nashville. Bonus points for this being the Sunday before Thanksgiving week, and the chance to just take the entire following week off and ease your way home.
4. CLEVELAND (FirstEnergy Stadium, Sunday, September 19)
TOTAL SCORE: 23 Rare is the occasion where you'll find a trip to Cleveland THIS high up on the road trip rankings, but a Week 2 game guarantees fairly pleasant weather. Also, Cleveland has access to two major Halls of Fame — the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
3. BUFFALO (Highmark Stadium, Sunday, October 3)
TOTAL SCORE: 24 Like Cleveland, the early season kickoff date guarantees not-so-miserable weather. Also, you get the home of the BUFFALO WING, and you get the Bills Mafia...
2. MIAMI (Hard Rock Stadium, Sunday, November 7)
TOTAL SCORE: 24 Guaranteed good weather in Miami in early November. Also, South Beach. Also, an approximately 5 percent chance that Deshaun Watson is starting at quarterback for the Dolphins, if he can get cleared and the Texans can make a trade.
1. ARIZONA (State Farm Stadium, Sunday, October 24)
TOTAL SCORE: 28 The one everyone is waiting for — DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt against the zombie version of the team they left behind (or in the case of Hopkins, the team they were jettisoned from). Add in the fact that you will get OUTSTANDING weather and solid golf, if that tickles your fancy, and this trip to the desert is, far and away, the best road trip of 2021.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.