"So, anyway, I see this dude out there, flailing away, looking ridiculous, and I'm about to laugh when I realize ... it was Kareem!"
Every year when the NFL schedules are released, three things inevitably happen. First, people celebrate/bemoan their favorite team's schedule. Second, someone (or multiple someones) points out that most opinions on the schedules are based on how teams fared in the just-finished season, which is silly because of the amount of turnover and the (illusion of) parity in the NFL. Third, I poop.1
The part about waiting before you bust out your Jump To Conclusions Mat is well-taken. Mid-April, before the draft and (this year, at least) before free agency, is way too early to get a feel for how the Texans (or any team, save the Bengals) stack up against their upcoming opponents.
Early August, however, is a whole different matter. 'Round about this time of year, one might feel safe in making some predictions. One might even turn those predictions into a blog post on an otherwise slow Wednesday. Now, as was once commanded by Sir Mix-A-Lot2: "Houston jump on it, jump on it, jump on it (Ooh, lord!)"
Week 1: v. Indianapolis. I'm still not 100% convinced that Sinciput Cinco starts at QB for the Colts in week 1. Even if he does, the fact that the Colts have rookies at LT and LG (i.e., that area where Mario Williams and J.J. Watt will be rocking people's faces) makes me feel good about this game. Prediction: Win (1-0).
Week 2: @ Miami. Chad Henne! (Or will it be Pat Devlin? Or Matt Moore? Or Tom Brandstate?) Reggie Bush! Brandon Marshall (now with additional baggage)! This team has "atrocious offense" written all over it. Throw in that the Texans have never lost to the Dolphins and that the Texans have won those games on the strength of their kicker, Matt Schaub's ability to lead a comeback, and despite playing a schizophrenic game, and you have to like Houston's odds here. Prediction: Win (2-0).
Week 3: @ New Orleans. I feel like this is the biggest test of the new defense in the first half of the season, even more than the Colts game. They have more legitimate WRs than the Texans have CBs who don't give me panic attacks, and the common thread in the Saints' losses last year was forcing the Saints to turn the ball over more times than you did. They also struggled against a 3-4 front (losses to Cleveland, Baltimore, Arizona). Still, I won't feel good about this game until I see that the Texans can actually force turnovers. Prediction: Loss (2-1).
Week 4: v. Pittsburgh. I still have nightmares about the last time the Texans played the Steelers. That said, I see an offense that declined from 2009 to 2010 and a defense with all its major components on the wrong side of 30. Throw in that this is a home game, and I actually feel pretty good about it. Prediction: Win (3-1).
Week 5: v. Oakland. Last year's game was much closer than it should have been, mainly because the Texans were in the process of trying out their "let's just not worry about covering TEs" approach and Andre Johnson did not play (meaning Nnamdi Asomugha was free to shut down Kevin Walter or Jacoby Jones). Neither of those factors should be in play this year, and Scrabble has left the building. Fun fact: The Texans have never lost to the Raiders in games in which Jesse Nading did not have to cover Darren McFadden on a passing route. Prediction: Win (4-1).
Week 6: @ Baltimore. Last season's overtime debacle against the Ravens still bugs the crap out of me, if only because it was Coach Gary in microcosm. At this point, can anyone doubt that a poor coaching decision will cost the Texans at least one game this season? This game, where Haloti Ngata is likely to go back-of-a-Volkswagon on some of the O-line, seems like the type of matchup that Gary could lose, so I'll stick with that. Prediction: Loss (4-2).
Week 7: @ Methopotamia. Going from Kerry Collins to Matt Hasselbeck (who hasn't thrown for more TDs than INTs since 2007, just fyi) is like going from a 1986 Chevy Monte Carlo to a 1990 Buick Century. (Jake Locker is a 2005 Subaru Legacy GT in this analogy.) If Chris Johnson continues his holdout --- and he should, what with the MAN trying to hold him down and not giving him his due respect --- the Titans will not score in this game. If Johnson does play, they won't score enough to win. Prediction: Win (5-2).
Week 8: v. Jacksonville. Ask the next person you see to name two Jacksonville WRs. $5 says they can't do it. Oh, sure, they brought in Paul Posluszny, but if they get a full season out of him, it will only be the second time in his entire career (games played, by season: 3, 16, 12, 14). Oh, and they guaranteed themselves a QB controversy should the team stumble out of the gate. Prediction: Win (6-2).
Week 9: v. Cleveland. It's probably not a great sign when you trade for a player and, rather than come to camp, he says "Cleveland?! Aww, HELL NO." Also, when Peyton Hillis falls victim to the cover jinx, there will be many, many sad Arkansans. Looking forward to that. Prediction: Win (7-2).
Week 10: @ Tampa Bay. You know in Caddyshack when Rodney Dangerfield comes into the pro shop and says, "Hey, orange balls! I'll have a box of those and give me a box of those naked-lady tees, gimme two of those, gimme six of those..."? That's how Mark Domanik approached free agency. All the same, this is a solid team with legitimate offensive weapons and a solid D that has been improved to some degree via the draft. I do think the Texans are the better team in this matchup, but I also think that coming into a game like this at 7-2 might make the team take this Bucs team for granted. Prediction: Loss (7-3).
Week 11: Bye.
Week 12: v. @ Jacksonville. See above re: Jacksonville's problems. The good news, of course, is that very few people will be on hand to see any of this. Prediction: Win (8-3).
Week 13: v. Atlanta. Ok, yes, I think that trading as much as they did to draft Julio Jones was stupid in a big-picture sense. Scoring points was not their problem last year. Versus the Texans, though, that draft pick will look genius, as Jones is likely to be covered by Kareem Jackson or Jason Allen, either of which is only slightly better in this scenario than leaving him uncovered entirely would be. Prediction: Loss (8-4).
Week 14: @ Cincinnati. Just when I was worried that we wouldn't get to see Bruce Gradkowski in 2011, Carson Palmer decides that not playing football is better than playing football for the Bengals. (In fairness, he's probably right.) Oh, you'll also probably get to see Fred Bennett in this game, so it'll be like that awkward family reunion where you saw the third-cousin that you kissed when you were both 14. I honestly think this will be the Texans' defense's best game of the season, both in terms of forcing turnovers and points allowed. Prediction: Win (9-4).
Week 15: v. Carolina. I assume, based on their bringing in Derek Anderson, that the Panthers are planning on starting Cam Newton from Day 1. Meaning that there will be 13 weeks of tape on him by the time the Texans face Newton. He has no real targets at WR and only Greg Olsen at TE. No, I don't count Jeremy Shockey as a real target. Assuming the Texans staff closely watches all laptop computers in the facility, I don't see any way that the Panthers leave here with anything but a loss. Prediction: Win (10-4).
Week 16: @ Indianapolis. Assuming Peyton Manning has not retired or had his neck broken by this point in the season, I think it's also safe to assume that he's going to beat the Texans in Indy. This screams letdown game as well, coming off an easy victory that gives the team 10 wins for the first time. Finally, throw in my belief that Indy will be trailing Houston in the standings at this point, so the game will mean more to them, and I think a loss is likely. Prediction: Loss (10-5).
Week 17: v. BESFs. Jake Locker has a good chance to be starting at this point, as Hasselbeck is highly likely to suffer a season-ending injury and/or to suck to the point that people want to see the rookie playing QB. (It'll be like when Vince took over as a rookie! Only like someone reversed the negative! And reversed the results!) Prediction: Win (11-5).
So, there you have it, BRBers. One guy's admittedly optimistic take on how the season will unfold. What say you?
1 Note: The third is not related to the first two, but it most certainly happens on the day the schedule comes out, just as it happens every other day of the year. I poop on a schedule that would rival Swiss trains.
2 Just who was Mix-A-Lot knighted by, anyway?
The Texans' record in 2011 will be:
5-11 or worse (10 votes)
6-10 (3 votes)
7-9 (9 votes)
8-8 (36 votes)
9-7 (81 votes)
10-6 (337 votes)
11-5 (212 votes)
12-4 (113 votes)
13-3 or better (39 votes)
840 total votes