Back in the day, before I started doing the postgame show for the Houston Texans on Texans Radio (hey, shameless plug — be sure to tune in Saturday night on SportsRadio 610 after the Texans-Patriots game!), my girlfriend Amy and I would travel to a couple of Texans road games each season.
Some seasons had better road schedules than others. For example, the years where they'd have a bunch of AFC North games were a little tough to find fun trips (with great weather), but on the other hand (and somewhat ironically), the horrific 2013 season had two of the most enjoyable road trips — San Diego and San Francisco — in our time as fans.
Traveling to follow your team is a big part of the fun of being a diehard fan. There are only eight road games, so they're all an event, and if you choose the right games in the proper cities, you can make a really nice weekend out of it. I'd grade the road schedule this season as an overall C+ or B-. Those darn NFC North teams, another death march to New England, and the division games are kind of ho-hum, but the two trips to NFC West land are kind of nice.
Let's stack rank these empirically, based on the total score of my subjective ratings (on a scale of 1 to 10) on these four categories:
Weather: How nice will it be on game day? (The Texans only play one game indoors, the finale in Indy.)
Intangibles: How nice is the stadium? Now nice is the city? How convenient is the trip? (Any random mitigating or aggravating circumstance are grouped in here.)
Extracurricular: How's the nightlife, the amount of activities to do on non-game days, and the grub? (I included a Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives choice for each city, with a YouTube link. You're welcome!)
Win: Simply, what are the chances the Texans can pull off a win?
Here we go...
8. BALTIMORE (M&T Bank Stadium, Monday, November 27)
Extracurricular: 3 (DDD recommend: Jimmy's Seafood)
TOTAL SCORE: 14
This road trip has all the earmarks of a gigantic disappointment. First of all, it's Baltimore, which isn't exactly a tourist mecca. It's a city probably best known for being the setting for The Wire, which centered around the true story of Baltimore's deadly drug-infested underbelly. Also, it's Baltimore in late November. The weather will suck. It's a Monday night game which means taking extra vacation days, and not just any Monday, but the Monday after Thanksgiving, which might be the worst travel weekend of the year. Finally, the Texans are 0-4 lifetime in Baltimore. On the plus side, the crab cakes are delicious!
7. JACKSONVILLE (EverBank Field, Sunday, December 17)
Extracurricular: 3 (DDD recommend: Metro Diner)
TOTAL SCORE: 20
Any time I watch a Texans road game in Jacksonville, I always say to myself "That looks like quite possibly the most boring road trip imaginable." The best part about this trip is that it's a near certainty you'll see a Texans win. This decade, the Texans are 5-2 in Jacksonville, with the only losses coming on a final play Hail Mary in 2010, and in the horrific 2013 season where nearly everyone beat the Texans.
6. CINCINNATI (Paul Brown Stadium, Thursday, September 14)
Extracurricular: 3 (DDD recommend: Melt)
TOTAL SCORE: 22
Some great recent road trip memories in this stadium, as this was where the Texans clinched their first division title in 2011 (see above video), and this is where they got the biggest prime time victory of the O'Brien Era, saving the 2015 season with a 10-6 win on a Monday night. This season the game is on a Thursday night, which inherently makes it a tricky road trip, but there is a Reds home series that weekend and Ohio State plays Army in Columbus, if you want to cross a few things off the bucket list.
5. NEW ENGLAND (Gillette Stadium, Sunday, September 25)
Extracurricular: 7 (DDD recommend: Mike's City Diner)
TOTAL SCORE: 23
In their history, the Texans are 0-5 in Foxborough, with an average final score of 37-13, so this is not exactly the friendly confines for Texan fans. The key for this trip might be to go in with proper expectation levels (read: none), and understand that you might be getting an early glimpse at an historically great football team. (I think the Patriots are going 16-0 this season.) On the bright side, New England in late September should have absolutely sublime fall weather with beautiful foliage. You will win Instagram for the weekend! Also, get the clam chowder!
4. TENNESSEE (Nissan Stadium, Sunday, December 3)
Extracurricular: 8 (DDD recommend: Martin's BBQ)
TOTAL SCORE: 24
I was somewhat dismissive of the three AFC South road trips, but truth be told, Nashville and Indianapolis are two of the more underrated NFL cities. (Jacksonville is still just Jacksonville, sorry Jags fans.) This particular early December game in Nashville has the usual rivalry seeds of "Hey, you stole our team!" planted in it for Houstonians, and the day should bring crisp football weather. The winning part of this weekend is the Nashville nightlife, which consists of a fantastic music scene and a downtown area with no shortage of outstanding watering holes. The trip itself is an easy flight or could even be driven, if you have a big group and want to go old school road trip, RV-style.
3. SEATTLE (CenturyLink Field, Sunday, October 29)
Extracurricular: 6 (DDD recommend: Voula's Offshore Cafe)
TOTAL SCORE: 25
Anytime you have a chance to road trip to a stadium whose noise level has been the subject of a Sports Science segment on ESPN, you have to go. Seattle is one of the true metropolitan gems in our great country with a solid restaurant and bar scene (and if the Astros ever get their pitching straightened out, you might need one of those bars to watch playoff baseball at night.) Because of a scheduling quirk, the Texans have not been to Seattle since 2005. (They lost 42-10 that day.)
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2. INDIANAPOLIS (Lucas Oil Stadium, Sunday, December 31)
Extracurricular: 7 (DDD recommend: Steer-In)
TOTAL SCORE: 27
There's a decent chance, assuming Andrew Luck's shoulder gets right, that this game could be for the AFC South title. Add in that the game is taking place on New Year's Eve (no extra vacation day needed on Monday!) and this trip has underrated potential. Above, I included video of Indy's New Year's Eve celebration, figuring that'd be more helpful than putting a highlight film of Andrew Luck.
1. LOS ANGELES RAMS (L.A. Coliseum, Sunday, November 12)
Extracurricular: 9 (
DDD SEAN recommend: Apple Pan)
TOTAL SCORE: 33
Far and away the best 2017 road trip, and it's not really close. First, it's Los Angeles, so the weather is a lock to be awesome. Travel should be easy and fairly inexpensive during the second week of November. There are a billion things to do in your spare time — the beach, Hollywood, celebrity home tours, the whole nine yards. The only downside is having to watch the game at the rancid pit that is the L.A. Coliseum, but the good news is, the Texans have an outstanding shot at bringing home a victory.
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.