Looking ahead to next season, here are the teams on the docket for Houston.
Obviously we can start with the six divisional games, home and home against the Colts, Jaguars and Titans. Beyond those games, here are the other ten:
Home- Chiefs, Bengals, Bears, Lions, Chargers
Road- Packers, Patriots, Broncos, Vikings, Raiders (in Mexico City)
What a brutal slate of road games. Four of those five out of division opponents made the playoffs and won 10+ games last season. The Raiders went 7-9 and they are the worst of that group but are a team on the up and up. Derek Carr was sensational last season, earning a spot in the Pro Bowl with 32 touchdown passes. Beyond that there is no doubt that playing against superstars Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson will be tough, and that’s not even including a star-laden defense of the Super Bowl champion Broncos.
Obviously the one out of division game that pops the eye on the home slate is the Chiefs. They will be making their third trip to Houston in two years. The Texans need to show something more than what they did on wild card weekend in that one to say the least. The games with the Bengals have been largely unpredictable, so who knows what will happen in that one. Don’t sleep on the Lions, who went 6-2 over the second half of last season to finish 7-9. After making a change at offensive coordinator things turned up for them in a hurry. The Bears and Chargers look like the two easiest opponents in that group. Chicago finished a subpar 6-10 last season, and the Texans have won all three meetings with the Bears in franchise history: 24-5 in 2004, 31-24 in 2008 and 13-6 in 2012. The Chargers were 4-12 last year after back to back 9-7 seasons, but remain dangerous with Philip Rivers at quarterback.
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Andrew Luck should be back to form next season making both games against them difficult. The Jaguars have a ton of money to spend in free agency to address their many needs, although quarterback isn’t one of them. If Blake Bortles cuts down on the turnovers they could be a real sleeper for the division next year. The Titans still look like they are in rebuild mode, but with Marcus Mariota they could surprise some people, particularly if they have better luck with injuries offensively.
Going 5-1 in the division again next season isn’t going to be easy, but with the Texans schedule outside of the division no less than 4-2 will do because of the schedule outside of the division. If Houston manages a split with their ten out of division opponents, going 4-2 against the AFC South gets them back to 9-7, which may not be good enough to win the division next season, and I’d bet won’t. But if the defense plays like it did in the second half for the whole year and the Texans get some stability at the quarterback and running back positions, maybe they can pull of some upsets and get to double digit wins.
September can’t arrive quickly enough.