Get ready, Houston.
It’s coming. I swear to you it’s coming.
What am I talking about? Houston Texans playoff hype, that’s what. By the time training camp kicks off in July, I guarantee you’ll have probably read at least a half dozen stories pegging the Texans as a “sleeper” playoff team in the AFC. Considering Houston’s recent reputation as pro football purgatory, I’m guessing the franchise will welcome such great expectations with open arms.
But can the team actually deliver the goods? Let’s look into our crystal ball and find out.
September 9 – Texans at Steelers
If statement games are what you’re looking for, you can’t find a much better opportunity than this: opening the season at Heinz Field to take on the always powerful Pittsburgh Steelers. Unfortunately, the Texans’ statement will probably sound a lot like, “Mommy, can we go home now? These bad men are hurting us.”
Pittsburgh 31 – Houston 17
September 14 – Ravens at Texans
Now we’re talking. Here’s a team the Texans can handle. New Baltimore coach John Harbaugh says quarterback Steve McNair wasn’t himself last year “because of the injuries. Everybody attributes that to age. Is it a result of age or did he just have injury issues? We’re going to find out."
They’re going to find out?!? What’s there to find out?!? Not only is McNair 83 years old, his body has been under the knife more than Tara Reid. Put it this way: If the artist formerly known as Air McNair is actually healthy enough to start this week 2 game I’ll be shocked.
Houston 24 – Baltimore 13
September 21 – Texans at Titans
If the Texans are truly going to make the playoffs in 2008, this is a game they absolutely have to win. On paper, the Titans are the least talented team in a loaded AFC South. But good things tend to happen in year three of the Vince Young era. Things like a QB rating above 71.1, for starters.
Tennessee 21 – Houston 20
September 28 – Texans at Jaguars
Uh oh. This has all the makings of a 1-3 start, right? No way, Jose. Here’s the only stat you need to know: In even-numbered years, the Texans are an unbelievable 5-1 against the Jags. So turn that frown upside down, Texans fans. Your team is going to get through a treacherous September with a .500 record.
Houston 23 – Jacksonville 20
October 5 – Colts at Texans
Forget what I said about those upside down frowns. Despite their improvements, the Steel blue crew is still no match for the soon to be Super Bowl champion Colts.
Indianapolis 30 – Houston 24
October 12 - Dolphins at Texans
So begins the easiest three week stretch in Houston Texans history.
Texans 34 – Dolphins 13
October 19 – Lions at Texans
Cupcake #2. Sure the Lions look scary on paper with weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. But come on, they’re the Lions! Matt Millen is still the GM! What’s there to be afraid of?
Houston 31 – Detroit 17
What did I tell you? Is that a sweet three week stretch, or what? I don’t want to hear any complaints from Texans fans about the schedule this year.
November 2 – Texans at Vikings
I’d never wish injury upon anyone, but a nicked-up Adrian Peterson would do wonders for the Texans’ chances in this one. Otherwise, Houston players and coaches are likely to find themselves haunted by the sound of the Metrodome’s Viking horn for the next few weeks.
Minnesota 27 – Houston 20
November 9 – Bengals at Texans
Team turmoil visits Reliant. The Bengals are another one of those teams which is great on Madden, yet mind-bogglingly mediocre in real life. If you’re keeping track at home, the Texans are now 5-4; keeping them smack dab in the middle of the playoff hunt.
Houston 28 – Cincinnati 24
November 16 – Texans at Colts
Ugh. And back to .500 they go.
Indianapolis 38 – Houston 20
November 23 – Texans at Browns
Cleveland is already getting a lot of buzz as a possible dark horse Super Bowl contender. That’s usually the kiss of death. Count me among those who are not really buying into the hype. Either way, this promises to be another make-or-break game for the Texans and their playoff aspirations. So my predicted final score should tell you all you need to know about where I stand on that particular subject.
Cleveland 23 – Houston 20
December 1 – Jaguars at Texans
Remember the even year stat, people. That’s all I’m saying.
Houston 24 – Jacksonville 23
December 7 – Texans at Packers
December at Lambeau Field doesn’t sound like a recipe for Texans’ fun. But a Brett Favre-less Packers team is vulnerable, right? I’m not so sure. Green Bay still has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, and I bet the Pack will be anxious to show everyone that there was way more to this team than the newly-retired #4.
Green Bay 20 – Houston 17
December 14 – Titans at Texans
Can Houston finally beat VY in its 6th attempt? The crystal ball is cloudy. I’m afraid it’s permanently stained from the tears of those still crying about the Texans passing on a chance to draft their hometown hero. So just to piss them off, I’m taking the Texans.
Houston 17 – Tennessee 14
December 21 – Texans at Raiders
There are very few guaranteed wins in the NFL. This is one of them.
Houston 27 – Oakland 17
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December 28 – Bears at Texans
The good news: The QB-deprived Bears appear to be ripe for the picking in 2008. The bad news: By week 17, Rex Grossman will be banished so far down the Bears’ bench that the Texans’ secondary won’t get a chance to pad its pick totals the way they would have if Sexy Rexy were in the ballgame. Too bad.
Houston 23 – Chicago 16
Postscript: So there ya have it: A franchise-best 9-7 record for the Texans. Unfortunately, in the meat grinder that is the AFC, that simply won’t be good enough to procure a playoff spot. But look at the bright side: This sort of incremental progress keeps the Texans right on track for their predestined appearance in Super Bowl LIV (in 2020). Get excited! Just 12 more years to go! - Jason Friedman