The Houston Texans finished the 2018 regular season with an 11-5 record, including nine wins in a row at one point. Yet, when Vegas put out their first round of season win total futures bets a couple weeks ago, the Texans were among a gaggle of teams with a relatively modest forecast of 8.5 wins. Why is this?
Well, first off, only a select few teams even get a forecast around or more than the 11 wins the Texans achieved in 2018. In fact, this is the first preseason in quite some time in which we may not have a team with a Vegas win total of more than 10.5. Second, and more importantly, the Texans had a relatively easy schedule in 2018, especially when viewed through the "opposing quarterback" lens. Things get much harder in 2019.
To wit, the five best quarterbacks the Texans faced last season were probably Tom Brady in Week 1, Andrew Luck in Week 4, Andrew Luck again in Week 14, and then, I suppose, Nick Foles in Week 16, and maybe Baker Mayfield in Week 13? I mean, it wasn't exactly murderer's row. This season, here are the Texans' 16 opponents with their forecasted starting quarterback:
vs INDIANAPOLIS — Luck
at INDIANAPOLIS — Luck
vs TENNESSEE — Mariota
at TENNESSEE — Mariota
vs JACKSONVILLE — Foles
at JACKSONVILLE — Foles
vs DENVER — Flacco
vs OAKLAND — Carr
at KANSAS CITY — Mahomes
at LA CHARGERS — Rivers
vs NEW ENGLAND — Brady
at BALTIMORE — L. Jackson
vs ATLANTA — Ryan
vs CAROLINA — Newton
at TAMPA BAY — Winston
at NEW ORLEANS — Brees
Well damn. Nick Foles was one of the three best quarterbacks they faced last season. Now, he's barely in the top TEN. Brady, Brees, Mahomes, Luck, Rivers, Ryan, Newton, Winston (with Bruce Arians now as his head coach), hell even Lamar Jackson running around doing Lamar Jackson things — they're all scarier than Foles. So the 2019 schedule would be hard enough even without the schedule maker getting cute on the Texans, who will travel to London for the first time in their history for a game sometime this season.
We will find out the exact schedule later this week. (For some reason, the NFL has chosen NOT to promote the hell out of the schedule release, which I don't understand.) Here are a few last minute requests I have for the folks responsible for schedule assembly:
Give the Patriots to the Texans early in the season again
This may sound counterintuitive, what with the Texans bowing down to the Patriots on or before Week 3 in each of the last three seasons, but it's not like catching the Pats late in the season is super ideal either. Also, this time the game is at home, and this time the Patriots are dealing with REAL problems in the offseason — free agency defections, Gronk's retiring, their owner getting pinched for visiting a sex parlor massage, among other things. Maybe not the opening weekend, but I wouldn't mind seeing the Patriots in September again.
Please, no visit to New Orleans in prime time
The less gassed up the drunk Cajun crowd can be for a game in the Superdome, the better. A nice noon start on a Sunday buried in the middle of the schedule would benefit the Texans greatly for what will surely could one of the more fun inter-conference matchups of the season, if the Texans' offense takes another step forward in 2019. A healthy Will Fuller and Keke Coutee will help greatly. The Saints playing at home in prime time has always been a problem for road teams.
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No trip to Baltimore or Kansas City in December
Cold weather sucks, for anybody, but it really sucks for a team whose offense is probably going to need to score 31 points on the regular just to compete for a division title. Last I checked, the weather in Baltimore and Kansas City is really awful in December, not to mention that those are two of the hardest places for a road team to play even when it's 65 and sunny.
Schedule the road game with the Chargers reasonably
The Texans don't get too many trips to the West Coast on their schedule, but the last couple times they have, the league hasn't done them any favors. Back in 2014, the Texans had to travel to Oakland in Week 2 (a win in Bill O'Brien's second game as Texans head coach), and then turn around and travel to New York to face the Giants in Week 3, a 30-17 loss. Then, in 2017, the Texans had trips to Seattle and Los Angeles sandwiched around a division home game against the Colts. That whole sequence was a debacle, but to be fair, the Colts and Rams games came right after Deshaun Watson tore his ACL, so that team was seriously debilitated. Still, had Watson been healthy, and the Texans went from 3-4 to 3-6, we'd have been talking about the schedule being set up for failure.
Season Finale request — home versus the Titans, please
In the four seasons where the Texans have been relevant under Bill O'Brien, Week 17 has mattered, whether it's been to clinch a division, or to stay in the hunt for a first round bye. So let's assume that this Texans team will at least be in the mix for the postseason. They will need a win in Week 17 for SOMETHING, so why not pick the easiest possible matchup? The home game against Tennessee might be not only their easiest division game, but easiest game overall. Under Bill O'Brien, the Texans are 5-0 at home versus Tennessee, with the five games having a combined score of 168-73 (average score of 34-15).