The NFL regular season is so close and simultaneously it feels so far away. We wait and we get excited as the days go by, like a child does when the family puts the Christmas tree in the living room.
The Texans’ schedule for the 2019 season will be a much more difficult one than last year. Instead of needing lucky breaks to get past Josh Allen and the Bills or Case Keenum and the Broncos, they get to hang on for dear life against the Saints, Chiefs, Patriots, and Chargers.
That being said, what games on their slate will be the most important? The most enticing? The most defining?
In order of importance and criticality:
The Monday Night Football season-opener against the Saints on the road in New Orleans is a critical game for Houston, because if the offensive line can’t protect Watson, the entire season could come grinding to an immediate full stop. They don’t need to win this game, but they sure as hell need to keep the QB from heading to a hospital.
On the odd chance that the Texans somehow survive their first ten games of the regular season with at least a .500 record, then the Thursday Night Football game at NRG hosting the Colts should be a crucial turning point for the AFC South.
I’d probably target the next two games as a tie for this ranking, because if Houston can find a way to host and defeat the Patriots and then the Broncos, they would actually have a strong seeding opportunity going into the playoffs.
The string of home tilts from game 11 through 13 (Colts, Patriots, Broncos) can make or break the post-season for Houston with respect to where they are in the AFC.
#1 Week Two v. Jacksonville
I know Nick Foles has the heavens on his side and everything, and I know the Jaguars’ offense is going to be better by default, and I know the Jags’ should have a top ten defense again, and I like their playoff chances, but they are still a team that wants and has to run the ball. Houston had the best run defense in football last year. This is the best matchup Houston has from weeks 1-7. They have to win this game. If not, Houston could be 1-6? 2-5? 3-4? by the time they play Oakland.
#2 Week Six v. Kansas City
I’m just excited to see Deshaun Watson v. Patrick Mahomes and everything that comes along with it. It’s also going to be FUN to see Houston go down and early and watch Watson try to scurry and come back with the offense blown wide open. Plus, J.J. Watt smashing Eric Fisher is something I’ll always love to see, and Will Fuller scorching Tyrann Mathieu deep will allow my bones to rest easy one day.
#3 Week Thirteen v. New England
lol, just kidding.
This is going to be absolutely miserable. There’s no way they win this game.
The first game against New Orleans will set the tone for the season.
Bill O’Brien has shown an extreme unwillingness to adapt his game plan earlier than the midway point of the season. If BOB again insists on establishing the run at all costs, no matter how Sisyphean, it’s going to be another boring, crappy offense unable to do much.
Doing this against the Saints would simply be unforgivable as that’s a team that might drop 50 points on our defense, especially if Clowney isn’t around. If this happens, BOB will spend the next seven games saying it’s on him, and the offense will still be trash, even with Deshaun Watson at the helm.
The season opener vs. the Saints is the obvious one. A Monday Night Football matchup in New Orleans? That usually does not bode well for the visiting team. Forget winning, just keep the score within two touchdowns and the loss will be a little less difficult to swallow.
Week 3 in Los Angeles, the Texans will take on what I believe is the best pass rush in the AFC. I worry about another punctured lung for Deshaun Watson in this one. Let’s just keep him alive, eh?
Week 13 on Sunday Night Football against the Patriots. Belichick’s disciples never have luck when the Patriots come up on the schedule but maybe a primetime home game gives them an extra boost. If the Texans don’t foolishly let Jadeveon Clowney go, then a strong pass rush could lead to an upset.