This is not a drill. We are just THREE DAYS from the kickoff to the 2017 NFL Season.
The wait has been long and arduous, and our patience will soon be rewarded with Sunday entertainment like no other in professional sports.
The Houston Texans have a Super Bowl-caliber defense and an offense with talent at wide receiver and running back. As head coach Bill O’Brien says, the regular season is made up of 16 one-game seasons. So keep reading for predictions for how the Texans 2017 regular season will fare.
Week 1: Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
I don’t think it would matter who the Texans were facing Week 1, their home opener. Following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey, the city of Houston is rallying around itself and its spiritual leader, JJ Watt. Watt’s YouCaring page began with a goal of just $200,000 and is nearing $20 million in donations going towards relief efforts. The roar in NRG Stadium as Watt is announced during pregame lineup introductions will be as loud as any moment all season. The Texans will win it for Houston. And if they don’t, the Jaguars will lose it for Houston.
Texans 24, Jaguars 10 (1-0)
Week 2: Texans at Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are better than their 6-9-1 record in 2016, and a Thursday night battle in Week 2 means the Texans will have less time to rest and recover from their emotional Week 1 contest and to prepare for a tough opponent on the road. That said, the Texans have owned the Bengals of late, winning seven of their last eight matchups dating back to 2008. Expect that to continue in Week 2.
Texans 19, Bengals 17 (2-0)
Week 3: Texans at New England Patriots
The undefeated start ends where two Texans seasons have ended as well. Even without receiver Julian Edelman, the Patriots are absolutely loaded—they’re defending Super Bowl champions for a reason. The Texans defense gave some guy named Tom Brady all they could handle in the 2016 playoffs, but the Texans offense can’t match up with the Patriots. It’s L number one for Houston.
Patriots 27, Texans 20 (2-1)
Week 4: Texans vs. Tennessee Titans
The Titans are the darlings of the national media, and for good reason. Marcus Mariota has a chance at blossoming into an elite quarterback, and the Titans added red zone superhero Eric Decker in the offseason, in addition to a strong draft class and solid crop of free agent acquisitions. Pair that with a near-miss on the AFC South title last season and the Titans look to be poised to win the division in 2017. I’m less high on the Titans prospects. Mike Mularkey has a career record of 27-46 as a head coach, Tennessee’s Expected Win-Loss record was just 8-8 a year ago, and Mariota has a consistent injury history in that he has been consistently hurt throughout his pro career. The Texans take this matchup at home.
Texans 27, Titans 24 (3-1)
Week 5: Texans vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs and Texans are similar teams on paper. Both teams possess top-rated defenses with question marks on offense. This primetime battle should be low-scoring, but expect the Texans defense to make more plays and give the team a hard-fought victory.
Texans 13, Chiefs 10 (4-1)
Week 6: Texans vs. Cleveland Browns
Oh, Cleveland. This game would have been so much more fun had the Browns not cut ties with former Texans’ quarterback Brock Osweiler. Alas, DeShone Kizer will have to face a Texans defense that feasts on young quarterbacks. Just ask Zach Mettenberger or Connor Cook. This one could get ugly.
Texans 27, Browns 6 (5-1)
Week 7: BYE WEEK
The Texans coast into their bye week with a 5-1 record and in first place in the AFC South. However, the Titans also hold a 5-1 record, with their only loss coming to Houston. The Texans have faced an easier schedule than Tennessee though, setting the stage for an interesting division race. The Titans defeat the Browns in Week 7 to take a half-game lead in the division.
Week 8: Texans at Seattle Seahawks
At least O’Brien and the Texans offense has an extra week to prepare for the Seahawks swarming defense. It’s unlikely to make much of a difference; Savage vs. Sherman is not exactly an even matchup. The offense will have to rely on winning the individual matchups and hope that the defense can contain Russell Wilson and co. This is a unit that has historically struggled to handle mobile quarterbacks. A hostile environment in the Pacific Northwest won’t help.
Seahawks 28, Texans 17 (5-2)
Week 9: Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are a team wholly dependent on quarterback Andrew Luck, whose health has been in question for almost a full year now. Even when healthy, Luck is inconsistent and is good for a turnover or two per game. Especially at home, the Texans defense will look to feast on this offense that gives and take the team’s first matchup of 2017.
Texans 20, Colts 17 (6-2)
Week 10: Texans at Los Angeles Rams
A year later, not typing “St. Louis” in front of Rams still feels weird. Jared Goff has looked steadier and more consistent in the preseason, but Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney will make his life a nightmare in this matchup.
Texans 19, Rams 10 (7-2)
Week 11: Texans vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are a much better team than their record in 2016 would indicate, and their offense is loaded with versatile weapons. The ageless Larry Fitzgerald remains a threat, and David Johnson is an alien from another galaxy sent to revolutionize fantasy football and the NFL running back position. Benardrick McKinney is a great tackler but struggles in coverage, and Johnson is a matchup nightmare for any defense. The Cardinals hand the Texans their first home loss of 2017.
Cardinals 28, Texans 20 (7-3)
Week 12: Texans at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens present problems with their defensive schemes. With a stable of talented pass-rushing linebackers, they are equipped to handle any NFL offense. The Texans don’t match up well here, and a road tilt on Monday Night Football traditionally spells disaster for Houston.
Ravens 17, Texans 10 (7-4)
Week 13: Texans at Tennessee Titans
The Titans easier schedule and home/road splits have them ahead in the AFC South to this point, and the Texans losing streak hits three games in Nashville. A healthy Mariota does just enough against the Texans tired defense following a short week to pull out a victory.
Titans 21, Texans 20 (7-5)
Week 14: Texans vs. San Francisco 49ers
Former Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer returns to Houston, where he was last seen in full meltdown mode against the Chiefs in the AFC Wild Card round of the playoffs. Watt and co. will give him a rough welcome back as the Texans return to their winnings ways.
Texans 24, 49ers 13 (8-5)
Week 15: Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are a mess. Blake Bortles dishes out turnovers like presents on Christmas, the offensive line remains makeshift, and the defense lacks talent and depth. The Texans face them at just the right time, the stretch run before the postseason.
Texans 21, Jaguars 10 (9-5)
Week 16: Texans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The first Watt Bowl will be overshadowed by the Killer B’s of Brown, Bell and Ben. The Steelers offense has potential to be prolific, with top-tier talent across the board. The Texans have held onto a Wild Card spot all season but fall out of it with this loss just before the season’s end.
Steelers 31, Texans 24 (9-6)
Week 17: Texans at Indianapolis Colts
As insensitive as it may sound, what are the odds that Luck is actually healthy for this tilt? With the Colts’ playoffs hopes evaporated, does he even play? The Texans are still fighting for a playoff berth and win in Indianapolis for the third straight year.
Texans 30, Colts 20 (10-6)
Despite finishing at 10-6, the Texans fall into a three-way tie with the Ravens and Chiefs for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. The Chiefs nab the 6-seed based on strength of victory. I see the rest of the playoff picture falling as follows.
- Pittsburgh (13-3)
- New England (13-3)
- Tennessee (12-4)
- Oakland (12-4)
- Denver (12-4)
- Kansas City (10-6)
- Green Bay (13-3)
- Atlanta (12-4)
- Arizona (12-4)
- Dallas (11-5)
- Seattle (11-5)
- Carolina (10-6)
Wild Card Round
Oakland 27, Denver 24
Kansas City 28, Tennessee 20
Arizona 28, Carolina 23
Dallas 27, Seattle 24
New England 34, Oakland 24
Pittsburgh 31, Kansas City 27
Atlanta 28, Arizona 27
Dallas 35, Green Bay 31
Pittsburgh 38, New England 35
Dallas 27, Atlanta 21
Pittsburgh 31, Dallas 28
Ben Roethlisberger earns his third Super Bowl as the Steelers offense overpowers the Cowboys young squad. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are simply too much for the ‘Boys to handle in a matchup straight out of the ’80’s.