The prognostications for the Houston Texans' 2021 season have been far from sparking. Every set of early power rankings that I've seen has the Texans as the 32nd best team in the league. Every early mock draft for the 2022 NFL Draft has the Texans picking first overall. Las Vegas forecasts the Texans season win total at 3.5, a microscopic number in the gambling world.
There's not a lot of confidence out on these NFL streets in the David Culley Era, and this is all before even knowing how the schedule lays out for 2021. Well, that variable was removed on Wednesday night, as the NFL released the league's 2021 schedule. So, here we go — here is the Houston Texans' 2021 schedule, which for the first time in history, will have 17 regular season games:
WEEK 1: Sunday, September 12 vs Jacksonville (Noon, CBS)
WEEK 2: Sunday, September 19 at Cleveland (Noon, CBS)
WEEK 3: Thursday, September 23 vs Carolina (7:20 p.m., NFLN)
WEEK 4: Sunday, October 3 at Buffalo (Noon, CBS)
WEEK 5: Sunday, October 10 vs New England (Noon, CBS)
WEEK 6: Sunday, October 17 at Indianapolis (Noon, CBS)
WEEK 7: Sunday, October 24 at Arizona (3:25 p.m., CBS)
WEEK 8: Sunday, October 31 vs LA Rams (Noon, FOX)
WEEK 9: Sunday, November 7 at Miami (Noon, FOX)
WEEK 10: BYE
WEEK 11: Sunday, November 21 at Tennessee (Noon, CBS)
WEEK 12: Sunday, November 28 vs New York Jets (Noon, CBS)
WEEK 13: Sunday, December 5 vs Indianapolis (Noon, CBS)
WEEK 14: Sunday, December 12 vs Seattle (Noon, FOX)
WEEK 15: Sunday, December 19 at Jacksonville (Noon, CBS)
WEEK 16: Sunday, December 26 vs LA Chargers (Noon, CBS)
WEEK 17: Sunday, January 2 at San Francisco (3:05 p.m., CBS)
WEEK 18: Sunday, January 9 vs Tennessee (Noon, CBS)
OK, now a few thoughts on a season that most Texan fans are viewing as a four month march to the top of the 2022 NFL Draft:
The opener against the Jaguars was a double dose of sobering reality
The very first game of Urban Meyer's NFL head coaching career, Trevor Lawrence's NFL playing career, and (potentially) Tim Tebow's career as a Jacksonville tight end will take place at NRG Stadium in Week 1. Opening weekend of the NFL season should be a celebration, and with full stadiums on the horizon again, this likely will be just that. However, there are two sobering threads here for Texan fans. First, the Texans have been installed as a 1.5 point underdog already. So they are expected to lose at home to team that was 1-15 last season. Second, I would imagine Deshaun Watson will not be playing in this game for the Texans, either because he is suspended or traded or hiding out. Thus, this game will serve as a cold reminder that, if Watson weren't sideways with the Texans, we would be getting the two Clemson legends facing off at quarterback twice each season. Hopefully, there won't be a hurricane two weeks before this season opener against the Jags, like in 2017.
The Arizona game will be in Week 7
With as much attrition as there's been on the Texans' roster, there is no shortage of games involving reunions with former Texan employees, but the one everybody is waiting for is the game against the Arizona Cardinals, the first look the Texans will get of DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt in Arizona red. That game will take place in Arizona on October 24, Week 7 of the NFL calendar. For the Texans, as if the personnel deficit itself wasn't enough, it will be the third road game in four weeks, with the previous three games coming against the Bills, the Patriots, and the Colts. Tough stretch, and tough situation for any Texan fans hoping to show Hopkins or Watt what they're missing out on in Houston.
There are plenty of rookie quarterbacks dotting the schedule
There were five rookie quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, and the Texans have the potential to see four of them this season. Lawrence was the first overall pick, and the Texans will presumably see him twice per year for the next decade or so. In 2021, they will see him in Week 1 and Week 15. Zach Wilson was the second overall pick in the draft to the Jets, and they SHOULD see him in Week 12, although he is so slight of build, he might be in a body cast by then. Trey Lance was the third overall pick to the 49ers. The Texans travel to the Bay Area in Week 16. I think if Lance starts in 2021, he will be the starter from the beginning of the season. Jimmy Garoppolo is still around, so it's up in the air whether the Texans see Lance or not, as it is with Mac Jones in New England (the 15th overall pick in the 2021 draft). The Texans face the Patriots in Week 5, and I expect Cam Newton to be the starter this season, if he is healthy.
The schedule is pretty vanilla, with its dates and start times
They say that playing in prime time, in front of your peers, is a big motivating factor for NFL players. Well, if Texan players need that sort of juice for motivation, they may have to look elsewhere. Other than the obligatory Thursday night game (each team gets at least one of those) in Week 3 against the Panthers, the Texans' entire schedule are Sunday games at conventional start times — 14 noon kickoffs in Central and Eastern time zone games, and late afternoon kickoffs for their two road games out west (Arizona, San Francisco). There is nothing crazy nor sexy about the actual days or kickoff times. It's vanilla ice cream.
The Texans road schedule is fairly absurd
If I am making some early predictions on the Texans' season, I think I feel most strongly about this one — they will go 0-8 on the road this season. Take a look at this road slate! They play four games against 2020 playoff teams from the AFC (Indianapolis, Tennessee, Buffalo, and Cleveland). They play a road game against a 10 win team that just missed the AFC playoffs (Miami), so that's road games against five of the top eight teams in the conference. Their two NFC road games are the aforementioned Arizona game and the San Francisco game in Week 16. The Niners have the most deceptive 2020 record (6-10) of perhaps any team in football, given their massive slew of injuries last season. Finally, the Texans other divisional road game is in Week 15 against the Jaguars, who will have Trevor Lawrence with nearly a full season under his belt. YIKES!
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