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Bill O'Brien has put the target squarely on his own back with his trades this past weekend.
Bill O'Brien has put the target squarely on his own back with his trades this past weekend.
Photo by Eric Sauseda

Houston Texans 2019 Season Preview and Predictions

Man, what a week it's been. This time a week ago, the Texans' starting left tackle was Matt Kalil, Jadeveon Clowney was still covered under the Texans benefits plan, and their future drafts were fully intact. Here we are a week later, and their left tackle is Laremy Tunsil, Jadeveon Clowney is in Seattle, and their drafts are gutted for the next two years. At least on Day One of the draft.

The one thing that remains is a healthy skepticism of just what the hell Bill O'Brien is doing as essentially czar of the roster and on field operations. The range of outcomes spans from, best case, O'Brien is a mad scientist who has somehow put together a real contender to, worst case, this thing blows sky high, with the mushroom cloud taking O'Brien for a ride into the stratosphere.

Long term, the moves O'Brien made —- selling Clowney off for peanuts and mortgaging EVERYTHING on Tunsil — scare the living snot out of me. But in 2019, if you handed the Texans two wishes just for this season, they might have been a 25-year-old, Pro Bowl caliber left tackle and Andrew Luck's retirement.

AND BOTH OF THOSE THINGS HAPPENED.

So how will this all come together once the real games begin on September 9? Well, if you’ve read my previews here in the past, you know that I divide the 16-game regular season into three buckets. We call this the Pendergast Method, and the buckets look like this:

MUST WIN: 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.

COIN FLIPS: 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.

STEALS: 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.

So where do the games on the 2019 slate stack up when we start applying the Pendergast Method? Well, let’s take a look:

Must wins, 5: vs JAC, vs OAK, vs DEN, at TEN, vs TEN
Coin flippers, 7: vs CAR, vs ATL, at IND, vs JAC (London), at BAL, vs IND, at TB
Steals, 4: at NOLA, at LAC, at KC, vs NE

Now let’s go game by game:

Monday, September 9 (0-1) — at New Orleans
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT:
 Texans +6.5
PREDICTION: Saints 37, Texans 31
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: They're catching an angry Saints team in their first game since getting screwed out of the NFC title, and I'm guessing it's still slightly chaotic this week implementing all the new Texan pieces.
BUCKET RATING: STEAL

Sunday, September 15 (1-1) — vs. Jacksonville
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT:
Texans -3.5
PREDICTION: Texans 24, Jaguars 14
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: This is an early win the Texans HAVE to have, the home crowd should be fired up to see, in person, Deshaun Watson possibly avoid murder for the first time in his Texans career at home.
BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN

Sunday, September 22 (1-2) — at Los Angeles Chargers
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans +6
PREDICTION: Chargers 27, Texans 24
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: This is a sneaky winnable game, with likely no Melvin Gordon and definitely no Derwin James for the Chargers, but I still can't pick O'Brien in a game like this on the road against a good quarterback.
BUCKET RATING: STEAL

Sunday, September 29 (2-2) — vs. Carolina
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT:
Texans -3
PREDICTION: Texans 28, Panthers 20
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Cam Newton is ut together with glue and duct tape at this point, which should serve as a reminder for Deshaun Watson to chill out on taking all those hits.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, October 6 (3-2) — vs. Atlanta
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -3.5
PREDICTION: Texans 34, Falcons 28
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Matt Ryan and Dan Quinn do some of their best choking in NRG Stadium. They lose 34-28 after being up 28-3.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, October 13 (3-3) — at Kansas City
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans +7
PREDICTION: Chiefs 45, Texans 34
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: The holes on defense come back to roost. Honey Badger gets the last laugh, and proceeds to stoke up a blunt at midfield after the game, lighting it with a $100 bill.
BUCKET RATING: STEAL

Sunday, October 20 (3-4) — at Indianapolis
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT:
Texans +1
PREDICTION: Colts 23, Texans 21
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Even without Luck, the Colts are still a tough out. Adam Vinatieri kicks the millionth game winning fourth quarter kick of his billion year career.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, October 27 (4-4) — vs. Oakland
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT:
Texans -6.5
PREDICTION: Texans 34, Raiders 16
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Another  true MUST WIN, mathematically. 4-4 is salvageable. 3-5 is tough sledding. Also, Antonio Brown has probably started some sort of flat earth controversy by Week Six.
BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN

Sunday, November 3 (5-4) — vs. Jacksonville (in London)
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT:
PICK EM
PREDICTION: Texans 20, Jaguars 17
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: J.J. Watt owns England, baby! This is basically a Texans home game, but with Paul McCartney singing "Football Time in London". (McCartney is the Clay Walker of England.)
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, November 10 (5-4) — BYE
PREDICTION:
Jack Easterby conducts a five day motivational seminar to prepare the team for the back half of the schedule. Unicorns and rainbows everywhere.

Sunday, November 17 (6-4) — at Baltimore
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans +1.5
PREDICTION: Texans 19, Ravens 16
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Lamar Jackson can't throw, which is perfect for a Notre Dame team that can't really defend the pass. First road win on this continent for the 2019 season.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Thursday, November 21 (7-4) — vs. Indianapolis
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT:
Texans -5
PREDICTION: Texans 27, Colts 21
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Because they have to beat Jacoby Brissett at some point, right?
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, December 1 (7-5) — vs. New England
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT:
Texans +2.5
PREDICTION: Patriots 27, Texans 13
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Until the Texans beat the Patriots at anything — football, tampering, Yahtzee, ANYTHING — I cannot pick them to win, even a6 home.
BUCKET RATING: STEAL

Sunday, December 8 (8-5) — vs. Denver
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT:
Texans -5.5
PREDICTION: Texans 27, Broncos 10
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Joe Flacco blows.
BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN

Sunday, December 15 (9-5) — at Tennessee
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT:
Texans +1
PREDICTION: Texans 24, Titans 23
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: We haven't had a last second Ka'imi Fairbairn field goal to win a game yet this season. This feels like the right time. Screw you, Vrabel.
BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN

Sunday, December 22 (9-6) — at Tampa Bay
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT:
Texans -1
PREDICTION: Bucs 31, Texans 17
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Let down spot for the Texans, on the road, game against a sneaky NFC team with a good offensive head coach, sandwiched in between two games against the Titans. Bad spot.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, December 29 (10-6) — vs. Tennessee
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT:
Texans -5
PREDICTION: Texans 34, Titans 17
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: When they've needed home wins late in the season to clinch things under O'Brien — 2015, 2016, 2018 — the Texans have come through.
BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN

FINAL PREDICTION: 10-6, AFC South Champions, lose in Divisional Round to Kansas City

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

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