Many people keep pointing out that our schedule is much tougher than last year's, but a random comment by Vandermeer* on the radio this morning saying something to the effect of "we need to pick up a couple wins within the division" got me thinking about our slate of games compared to last year. If we can improve upon our 1-5 record within the division this year, then having a tougher non-divisional schedule shouldn't be all gloom and doom --- we wouldn't need to go 8-2 outside our division again to reach 9-7. More after the jump...
Everyone highlights the fact that we play the NFC-E this year as opposed to the NFC-W, which I agree is by far a much tougher slate of games. But no one (that I've seen) points out that in exchange for the AFC-E, we get to play the AFC-W, which I'd argue is roughly equivalent in the opposite direction, i.e., a much easier slate**. Below I show how I look at it, with 2009 division and actual record against followed by comparably tough 2010 division and pessimistic*** expection of record against.
- Intradivision 1-5, Intradivision 3-3
I'd say in total the other 3 teams in the division are roughly as tough as they were last year. I see (pessimistically) losses to the Colts (twice) and to the Titans
- AFC-E 3-1, NFC-E 2-2
- NFC-W 3-1, AFC-W 3-1
why not compare these two sets of divisions to each other since they are both considered roughly equivalent in terms of strength? I see most likely losses to Cowboys, Eagles and Chargers
- AFC-N:3rd 1-0, AFC-N:2nd 0-1
team switches from Bengals to Ravens which does look tougher, although the Bengals were 4-1 at the time with a fluke last play loss to Denver being their only blemish and we get to play Baltimore at home while last year's game was on the road
AFC-W:3rd 1-0, AFC-E:2nd 0-1
team switches from Raiders to Jets which is obviously a way tougher game, although the Jets were only 7-7 in regular season games last year where the opponent actually tried to win the game
Overall (non-divisional): 9-7 (8-2) in 2009, 8-8 (5-5) in 2010
Thus I think we can drop a few more non-divisional games this year as long as we make up for it within the division where we have the ability to improve greatly upon our 1-5 record from last year. I really feel that there's no way we should do worse than 8-8 this year. With realistic shots of going 4-2 within the division and winning one of the two intraconference games (probably Ravens at home on MNF), I feel we could go 10-6. All this and I'm not even proposing that we'd have to beat the Colts one time! To me, it's probably more realistic that we win 9 which might make for disappointing news again if we don't win the tiebreakers. But hey, if you can make a good case for 9 wins being a near-base line expectation, that's not too bad! Get a win against the Colts at home to start the year and suddenly 10+ wins and a playoff birth seem possible, if not probable.
That's my 2 cents, for what it's worth.
I'll close with an odd fact regarding the Texans' strength of schedule this year which is 24 games over .500 (140-116) and tied for toughest in the league. Interestingly, the Colts were 14-2 last year, thus playing them twice accounted for our entire amount over .500. That means that the other 14 teams on our schedule, in aggregate, are worse than we were last year!
* 1560 was at a commercial break of course
** Technically it's harder this year as the NFC-E was +4 last year while the AFC-E was even; the AFC-W was only -4 while the NFC-W was -16! Ahh stats, sometimes they don't help you out like you'd like.
*** I consider this to be basically a worst-case expectation, barring signicant injuries of course and/or drastic unforeseen improvements from our upcoming opponents