The unveiling of the NFL schedule has become one of the more underrated events on the NFL's calendar over the last few years. With the time and place and sequence of games becoming nearly as important as the actual opponents, the schedule release gives us our first REAL chance to begin prognosticating on the upcoming season.
On Thursday evening, the NFL unveiled the league's schedule for 2018, and the fifth edition of the Houston Texans under head coach Bill O'Brien will begin their quest to return to the postseason in a very familiar place against a very familiar foe, as the Texans will travel to New England in Week 1 to take on the (suddenly, somewhat dysfunctional) Patriots.
Including the postseason, it's the seventh time since 2012 that the Texans have faced the Patriots, and the fifth time they've gone on the road to do so. Up until last season, Foxboro had been a house of horrors for the Texans. However, in 2017, Deshaun Watson took them to the precipice of a huge upset before some questionable coaching decisions and botched defensive sequences left the door open for Tom Brady to eke out a 36-33 Pats win.
The preseason should be a fun build to that Week 1 matchup, and speaking of the preseason, let's dish out the entire schedule, followed by my thoughts on it. Here you go:
Wk Day Date Opponent TV Kickoff Time
1 Thur Aug. 9 @ KC KTRK 7:30 p.m.
2 Sat Aug. 18 vs SF KTRK 7:00 p.m.
3 Sat Aug. 25 @ LA Rams KTRK 3:00 p.m.
4 Thur Aug. 30 vs DAL KTRK 7:00 p.m.
Wk Day Date Opponent TV Kickoff Time
1 Sun Sept. 9 @ NE CBS Noon
2 Sun Sept. 16 @ TEN CBS Noon
3 Sun Sept. 23 vs NYG FOX Noon
4 Sun Sept. 30 @ IND CBS Noon
5 Sun Oct. 7 vs DAL NBC# 7:20 p.m.
6 Sun Oct. 14 vs BUF CBS Noon
7 Sun Oct. 21 @ JAC CBS Noon
8 Thur Oct. 25 vs MIA FOX/NFLN# 7:20 p.m.
9 Sun Nov. 4 @ DEN CBS 3:05 p.m.
11 Sun Nov. 18 @ WAS CBS Noon
12 Mon Nov. 26 vs TEN ESPN# 7:15 p.m.
13 Sun Dec. 2 vs CLV CBS Noon
14 Sun Dec. 9 vs IND CBS Noon
15 Sat Dec. 15 @ NYJ NFLN# TBD
16 Sun Dec. 23 @ PHI CBS Noon
17 Sun Dec. 30 vs JAC CBS Noon
And now, courtesy of the Houston Texans, here's the way more fun way to announce the schedule:
Ok, here are a few thoughts on the Texans' 2018 slate:
For the first time since 2008, the Texans open with two road games. In fact, they open with three of their first four on the road, including the earliest trip to Indianapolis since 2006, in Week 4. If you're wondering why September is so road-heavy, it's in part due to musical acts invading NRG Stadium. Jay Z and Beyonce visit during the weekend in which Week 2 occurs, and Taylor Swift visits in Week 4. With the defending AFC champs and two division foes providing the opposition in those three road games, this is one of those stretches where it's nice, for Bill O'Brien's sake, that the Texans' head coach has a four year contract extension. (NOTE: Texan fans looking to travel to New England should know this — the Astros and Red Sox play at Fenway that same weekend!)
Prime time games
The Texans, somewhat surprisingly, only have three prime time games on the 2018 schedule, but they lay out almost perfectly, with all three of them at home. The first one is in Week 5, as the Dallas Cowboys visit on a Sunday night. (NOTE: The last time Dallas visited in the regular season, in 2010, the fights in the parking lot caused a change in tailgating rules at NRG Stadium. I'm not sure that ten hours of drinking is good for business here, but whatever.) The next prime time game is in Week 8 on a Thursday against the wretched Dolphins (possible Osweiler sighting!). The Texans will be coming off a road trip to Jacksonville the previous Sunday, which is tricky. Finally, for the second straight year, the Texans play on the Monday after Thanksgiving, this time at home against the Tennessee Titans, who they beat 57-14 at home last season.
Division flip flop
Last season, the schedule had the Texans playing their three division home games before playing even one division road game. This season, the Texans will be done with division road games by Week 7. It goes without saying, the tough part of this slate is the first two months. If they can get to the bye week at 5-4.... well, more on that in a minute.
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East Coast swing
One thing to keep in mind with this season's schedule is the divisional crossovers are with the AFC East and the NFC East, with road games at the Patriots, Redskins, Jets and Eagles. Those last three opponents are all on the schedule OUTDOORS on November 18, December 15, and December 23. The run game better be clicking in the second half of the season, as there could be snow. Lots of snow.
So how will this all play out? Well, as I mentioned earlier, if the Texans can navigate the nine games before the bye week to a 5-4 record, they should be in decent shape. They'll be favored in all four home games before the bye, and should be able to nab a win or two from the five road game group of NE, TEN, IND, JAC, and DEN. At 5-4, they would come back from the bye with a road game against Washington and then three home games, all very winnable (TEN, CLV, IND). Let's say they go 3-1 in that stretch. That's 8-5. Then you have road games to the Jets and Eagles, so let's say they split those. That's 9-6, which means the Texans are playing Jacksonville in Week 17 for a shot at 10-6 in what could be a de facto divisional championship game. That's a fun schedule.
EARLY PREDICTION: 10-6
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.