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Is there a path to the AFC South championship for Houston?

Here’s how Houston could wind up an unlikely divisional winner.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Both during the Hair of the Dog thread during last Sunday’s game vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers and in a recent Battle Red Blog groupthink, the blog’s staff and I all brought up the potential of the Houston Texans carrying this momentum they’ve garnered and “going on a run” through the next several weeks of the season. Houston’s next four games are all against NFC South opponents, which can be just what the doctor ordered for a young team trying to build up some steam. Facing the Atlanta Falcons this coming Sunday will be a highly contested battle where I can honestly see either side winning, but in the following weeks’ matchups against New Orleans and Carolina, I believe it is reasonable to favor Houston.

I may be riding high off of their big win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I’m actually going into the next month of games with real confidence in this team to tally up some victories. This is kind of uncharted territory for me. I’ve never had a reason to be in a jubilant attitude when writing about the Texans since I started writing for the blog back in 2020, but I think it’s time to just fall into the hype abyss and commit myself to the art of the hot take. After all, it isn’t like I’m without reason! Rookie edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. has been making a difference on the field, and he’s joined by a surging Jonathan Greenard. Second year cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. may be hurt, but free agent singing Shaquill Griffin has been playing excellent football as his replacement. C.J. Stroud is arguably a top ten quarterback in the entire NFL right now, an unfathomable start to his (hopefully long) career in Houston. Even the injury report, the dreaded injury report, brought good tidings on Thursday as it listed several starters as either partial or full participants in practice. Everything just seems to be falling in place for Houston, and you know what that means: Houston isn’t just going to keep this ball rolling over the next month, they’re going to win the AFC South!

No, listen! Hear me out! Look at Houston’s schedule and compare it to their division rivals:

Houston Texans - 15th Offense, 11th Defense - Schedule:

Wk. 5: @ Atlanta Falcons (2-2)

Wk. 6: vs. New Orleans Saints (2-2)


Wk. 8: @ Carolina Panthers (0-4)

Wk. 9: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)

Wk. 10: @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-3)

Wk. 11: vs. Arizona Cardinals (1-4)

Wk. 12: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

Wk. 13: vs. Denver Broncos (1-3)

Wk. 14: @ New York Jets (1-3)

Wk. 15: @ Tennessee Titans (2-2)

Wk. 16: vs. Cleveland Browns (2-2)

Wk. 17: vs. Tennessee Titans (2-2)

Wk. 18: @ Indianapolis Colts (2-2)

0.396 win %

Indianapolis Colts - 14th Offense, 22nd Defense - Schedule:

Wk. 5: vs. Tennessee Titans (2-2)

Wk. 6: @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

Wk. 7: vs. Cleveland Browns (2-2)

Wk. 8 vs. New Orleans Saints (2-2)

Wk. 9: @ Carolina Panthers (0-4)

Wk. 10: @ New England Patriots (1-3)

Wk. 11: BYE WEEK

Wk. 12: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)

Wk. 13: @ Tennessee Titans (2-2)

Wk. 14: @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-3)

Wk. 15: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)

Wk. 16: @ Atlanta Falcons (2-2)

Wk. 17: vs. Las Vegas Raiders (1-3)

Wk. 18: vs. Houston Texans (2-2)

0.434 win %

Tennessee Titans - 23rd Offense, 8th Defense - Schedule:

Wk. 5: @ Indianapolis Colts (2-2)

Wk. 6: vs. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)


Wk. 8: vs. Atlanta Falcons (2-2)

Wk. 9: @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)

Wk. 10: @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)

Wk. 11: @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

Wk. 12: vs. Carolina Panthers (0-4)

Wk. 13: vs. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)

Wk. 14: @ Miami Dolphins (3-1)

Wk. 15: vs. Houston Texans (2-2)

Wk. 16: vs. Seattle Seahawks (3-1)

Wk. 17: @ Houston Texans (2-2)

Wk. 18: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

0.547 win %

Jacksonville Jaguars - 20th Offense, 12th Defense - Schedule:

Wk. 5: @ Buffalo Bills (3-1) (London)

Wk. 6: vs. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)

Wk. 7: @ New Orleans Saints (2-2)

Wk. 8: @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)


Wk. 10: vs. San Francisco 49ers (4-0)

Wk. 11: vs. Tennessee Titans (2-2)

Wk. 12: @ Houston Texans (2-2)

Wk. 13: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1-3)

Wk. 14: @ Cleveland Browns (2-2)

Wk. 15: vs. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)

Wk. 16: @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)

Wk. 17: vs. Carolina Panthers (0-4)

Wk. 18: @ Tennessee Titans (2-2)

0.528 win %

Of all teams in the AFC South, the Houston Texans have the weakest schedule of all, with their remaining opponents a collective 21-32. On top of that, Houston has at least four more players listed on their injury report than any other divisional opponent. Assuming that their roster recovers, they are most likely to see a jump in performance as starters return to the field. But, this massive, albeit slowly shrinking injury report makes Houston’s dominance in the last two games even more impressive; they’re practically on pace to be the best statistical team in the AFC South, and it’s with half the team not playing!

Given the injuries and heavy use of rookies, we could be just scratching the surface of what Houston is capable of. If they continue to get healthier and round out their roster, the division can be theirs for the taking. Both Tennessee and Jacksonville’s schedules become much more difficult in the month of November, while the Colts and Texans will be enjoying multiple games in the middle of the season with teams below .500. Besides the Colts, the only team left on Houston’s schedule with an offense ranked in the top-half of the league is the Denver Broncos. Yes, those Denver Broncos! As Houston’s defense gets healthier and more experienced, they will perform against weaker and weaker competition as the year goes on. Great news for a young defense led by a young coach, but it’s paired with the offense needing to play against tougher and tougher defenses as Stroud reaches the end of his rookie campaign. The schedule is a double-edged sword, but seeing how quickly Houston was able to get a double digit lead in the previous games has given me confidence they can win regardless of the circumstances.

But, of course, we can’t ignore C.J. Stroud. Stroud has been the engine of the offense, and has led Houston to the top shelf of passing attacks in 2023. His passes are fantastic, his processing otherworldly, and his pocket presence is exceptional. Turn on one of the many, many, many C.J. Stroud tape analysis YouTube commentaries, and you’ll quickly hear praise about his “decision-making” and “vision.” Simply put, Stroud sees the field very well and is a natural for the position,

After it’s all said and done, if the Houston Texans are at least able to stay .500 in the division, we could be looking at a 9-win, 10-win, or even 11-win season! Houston has the firepower to knock off Carolina, Cincinnati, Arizona, and Denver - who gave up a historic amount of yards and points just a few weeks ago when they were defeated by the Miami Dolphins 70-20. In fact, it’s not just Denver that has a poor defense, multiple teams left on Houston’s schedule do not have strong pass defenses, such as Indianapolis and Tennessee, making the job even easier for Stroud to accomplish. Add in victories against the Falcons and the Jets - two teams Houston is more than capable of defeating - and you’re entering double-digit wins territory. But, one thing that could end up becoming the monkey in the wrench for this surging team is the offensive line.

So far this season, the Texans have been ranked near the bottom of the league in run-blocking and squarely mediocre at pass-blocking. If they can improve over time as more and more linemen recover from injuries, can you imagine what C.J. Stroud could be capable of? Through all the line troubles, Stroud has still ranked near the top of the league in yards per attempt (8.0) and passer rating (100.6), which are great numbers given the circumstances.

Right now, despite the poor blocking, the Texans are in position to take control of the race to the division title, and if they can:

  1. Recover from injuries and improve as a result.
  2. Continue blocking successfully, proving last Sunday’s game was not a fluke.
  3. Take advantage of Stroud’s passing abilities against poor defenses.

Then another AFC South title may be just around the corner. I know it’s still weird to think of this team as legitimately contending for a playoff spot, but the Texans are blasting over the expectations of many a pundit, and through their perseverance have proven themselves a worthy opponent to any team. Their defense is suffocating, their offense is on fire thanks to the golden arm of C.J. Stroud, and the special teams are nearly perfect. Throw in milquetoast performances from the Tennessee Titans and glitter kitties, and you’ve got yourself a track to the postseason.

If I had to pick their record if they really went on this magic carpet ride, I’d pick 10-7. They should beat Atlanta, Carolina, Cincinnati, and Arizona. Games against Denver and the Jets should be close, but I can see Stroud outscoring both opponents and securing victory. Then, it really comes down to those pivotal divisional games, vs. Jacksonville on Week 12, both Titans games on Weeks 15 and 17, and then finishing the season with a finale in Indy. Houston will probably need to win at least two of these four games to ensure playoff contention. None of these games are easy, but with a team coming together like this, I see 10 wins as a reachable goal.

What do you think, though? Are the Texans going to go fly higher and higher as the season goes on, or will they eventually flop? Let us know in the comments!

NFL: OCT 01 Steelers at Texans Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images