The 2018 regular season for the Houston Texans has been quite the story.
They started off 0-3 with a sloppy performance in Foxboro against the Patriots to start the year, and less than impressive losses in Nashville against the Titans, and at home against the now one-win Giants.
Improved play on the offensive line, the defense, and Deshaun Watson returning back to form, has propelled the Texans to a six game winning streak that includes a few late game heroics and big breaks.
Style points only exist in college football though. At 6-3 entering a Week 10 bye, they sit atop the AFC South division. They would be the fourth seed in the conference right now if the season ended today, and they would host the Los Angeles Chargers in the Wild Card round.
The question is, how can the Texans seal the AFC South and improve on their playoff seeding. This is how they can win each of their remaining games.
11/18 @ Washington Redskins:
The Redskins are an enigma. You might get the team who shut out the Carolina Panthers for three quarters and looked like a serious threat, or you might get the team who looked like a Pop Warner team in Week Nine against the Atlanta Falcons. The keys to this game are simple. The Redskins rank 20th in the league in passing yards per game so it’s important to attack early. With DeAndre Hopkins, and new weapon Demaryius Thomas, the Texans should throw early on. The Redskins rank fifth in the league in rush yards per game, but allowed 154 yards to the Falcons. Washington ranks tenth in rush yards per game led by the immortal Adrian Peterson, but the Texans allow the seventh fewest rush yards per game. It will be interesting to see which team’s strength comes out on top. If the Texans can do that, and keep the play action passing attack at bay, they should be able to win this game.
11/26 vs Tennessee Titans:
Division games are always a challenge. This one will be especially tough. This game will be a Monday Night Football matchup in Houston that should impact the AFC South division going forward. In the sports media/writing world, we do not like to assume losses. Anything can happen and no team can be overlooked. But the Titans host the sizzling hot New England Patriots in Week 10 and haven’t beaten them since 2002. They will then head to Indianapolis to take on the Colts who are getting hot themselves. It’s plausible to think the Titans will enter this game at .500 or below with their season on the line, if not close. The Titans already beat the Texans back in Week 2, and another win would put them one game closer, AND they would own the tiebreaker.
The key to the Texans winning this game is forcing Marcus Mariota to beat them. Mariota looked like the Heisman Trophy winner from Oregon Week 9 in Dallas, but can that performance on the Monday Night stage be repeated? Mariota was hurt for their first matchup and Blaine Gabbert was the starting quarterback. The Texans crowd will be loud and the Titans will be playing their hearts out as this game may very well decide their fate. The Texans will need to establish their pass rush with J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus. Put the heat on Mariota and force him into uncomfortable throws. If the Texans can make Mariota play with his arm instead of his legs, then the Texans should also win this game.
12/2 vs Cleveland Browns:
Out of every team that has ever had a sub .300 winning percentage, the 2018 Cleveland Browns might be the most competitive. This team has gone to four overtimes already. They left two wins on the table to start the year against the Steelers and the Saints thanks to kicking woes. This is not a what-should-have-happened league though, this league is about what DID happen. This game will feature two of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time with National Champion winner and two-time Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson squaring up against 2017 Heisman winner Baker Mayfield, who set a ton of passing records at the University of Oklahoma. Expect this game to have a collegiate feel to it, meaning that both offenses might use some gimmick style plays and a lot of play action.
For the Texans, this game will play a factor in determining the seeding in the AFC. For the Browns, this is a spoiler game. They will play loose and free, looking to get Mayfield more reps and experience as they gear up for his sophomore campaign. The Browns are 0-4 on the road, but lead the league with twenty-three takeaways. The Texans will need to take care of the football in this one and avoid allowing the Browns a defensive score or advantageous field position. This should be another win for the Texans, but again, this is not your average sub .300 football team.
12/9 vs Indianapolis Colts:
Andrew Luck is on fire. He’s second in touchdowns to Patrick Mahomes with 23. He has been banged up with injuries for the last few seasons but looks to be back. Their defense is middle of the pack per usual. These two teams went into overtime in Week 4 with the Texans prevailing 37-34. The controversy in this game was head coach Frank Reich calling a 4th-and-4 pass play from the Colts own 43 yard line that failed. This set up a turnover on downs and led to a Kai’imi Fairbairn game-winner.
The Colts will be looking for revenge in this matchup. The Colts sit at 3-5 entering Week 10 and have playoff dreams of their own. Will the Colts be hanging on for dear life by this time? from Week 10 to Week 12, they will have three consecutive home games against the Jaguars, Titans, and Dolphins. They will then go to Jacksonville before this game in Houston. If Indianapolis wants to make their playoff push, the time is now.
This game in particular has the makings of another shootout. If Watson continues playing at a MVP-caliber level and can sustain their rushing attack, the Colts defense will wear down. It will also keep Andrew Luck off the field, which might be the best defense the Texans can play. The Colts seemed to have found a new weapon with Marlon Mack, who has had two straight one-hundred yard rushing games entering Week 10. The Texans’ run defense needs to hold up their end of the bargain and not let them open up the field. With Andrew Luck playing at an elite level, he has the ability to pick apart a Texans’ secondary that has improved in recent weeks.
12/15 @ New York Jets:
The New York Jets are right about where we expected them to be at 3-6 through their first nine games. You have to feel bad for rookie quarterback Sam Darnold’s rollercoaster freshman season. Darnold doesn’t have many weapons at his disposal. The Jets rank 20th in pass defense and 15th in rush defense. Their offense is 16th in rush yards per game and 28th in pass yards per game. The secondary led by potential All-Pro Kareem Jackson should have their way with Darnold. This could be a game more about defensive effort. As long as the Texans can stay away from turnovers, they should prevail in this one. Met Life Stadium is never a walk in the park because of that home crowd though.
12/23 @ Philadelphia Eagles:
This is the game. This is the one we all circled on our calendars before the year started. It’s a mystery why this game didn’t get a primetime spot. Deshaun Watson vs Carson Wentz. Two dynamic athletes playing quarterback for teams with Super Bowl hopes, both coming back strong from season-ending ACL injuries. Both teams acquired wide receivers to bolster their offenses-; Demaryius Thomas to Houston and Golden Tate to Philadelphia. Both teams will be looking to finish their seasons strong and win their divisions. Both teams will be looking for a possible first round bye, but the chances are not in their favor due to competition in their conferences, the Chiefs, Patriots, and Steelers in the AFC, and the Rams and Saints in the NFC. The Texans have also played the Eagles four times and have never won.
So how can the Texans walk into Philadelphia and escape with a dub? The Eagles’ defense is second best in the league against the run, so Lamar Miller may be a non-factor in this one. The Texans themselves are seventh against the run. This game might come down to 80+ combined passing attempts from both arms. The Texans enter Week 10 with fifteen total takeaways while the Eagles only have seven. If this pattern continues, it will be crucial for the Texans to force an interception or a fumble in a game that is designed to be decided by one or two plays. Through this point in the season, both teams are relatively even in sacks. The Texans have twenty-three and the Eagles have twenty-two. We know that both quarterbacks are not afraid of hits are welcome the chance to use their legs and scramble.
Both fanbases look to receive an early Christmas present with this game. This is the type of game that a team needs to boost their confidence as they will be two weeks away from the playoffs. The Texans will need to limit mistakes on offense, and keep Carson Wentz from making big plays with his arm. The small details will be important in this game. Field position. Successful punts. Converted field goals and extra point attempts. Every single yard will count. This game will have the makings of a thriller and it’s a shame it will not be on primetime.
12/30 vs Jacksonville Jaguars:
The final game of the regular season will come at home against a divisional foe. This game might be determined beforehand though. The Texans might walk into this game already having won the division. If they have already won the division by this time, the only way this game will matter is if they have a chance to secure a first-round bye.
The Jaguars have been a disappointment this season. They were close to a Super Bowl berth last season and have not lived up to expectations. They still have the number one ranked pass defense in the entire league, but only have the twenty-fourth rush defense. Their struggles on offense are obvious. Blake Bortles is a mediocre quarterback, but in their defense, Leonard Fournette hasn’t been healthy this season and has only played in two games. He was an exciting rookie last season and looked to be a star going forward. The Jaguars enter Week 10 sitting at 3-5. So while their playoff hopes are not dead, it will take a major turnaround for them to get back into the thick of things.
The Texans won their first matchup on October 21st in Jacksonville by a score of 20-7. The Jags’ secondary will need to keep playing at an elite level for them to win this game and they will probably need to win the turnover battle or score a defensive touchdown. This game will most likely be decided by one question though. Will the Texans be playing to win this game or will they rest their starters for the playoffs? That will ultimately be the difference.
To sum things up, the Texans have a schedule that certainly works in their favor down the stretch. Aside from the Week 16 game in Philadelphia, the Texans should be favorites to win them all. Being favorites does not mean anything in football. They need to keep their focus, use their bye week for extra preparation and to get healthier, and continue riding the wave they have been riding for the last six games. This team has the talent to do it, but we will see if they can execute.
What will be the Texans record to finish the season?
This poll is closed
9-7 or worse