Houston Texans: Top 5 non-divisional matchups on 2023 schedule

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5. . . . . 87. .

This might be one of those games the NFL decides needs to be in a prime-time slot, given the matchup of the top two picks in the 2023 NFL Draft is facing off against each other. C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young will forever be linked due to their draft positions.

When you compare these two teams, they are very similar with rookie quarterbacks, solid backfields, and unproven receiving corps.  The defenses for these teams will be their strength as well.  This will be a fun game to watch but tough to call the winner. The Panthers seem to be a bit more established though and only slightly ahead in the rebuild phase, but it will come down to which quarterback plays better and which team's defense can step up.

This game made the list solely based on the quarterback matchup because it likely won't have much impact on the Texans' drive for a playoff spot; however, this is a game the Texans can win, and they will need to steal every win they can, given the loaded AFC.

. . . 4. . . 30.

I put this one on the list because I think the AFC could potentially produce two wildcard teams. So, if the Texans want to make a case for one of those spots, beating the Jets would be a big win. If the Texans can pull off a win here, it will give them the head-to-head win in the case of a tiebreaker.

The problem is, the Jets were a top-five defense a season ago and are poised to do the same in 2023. The big difference coming into this year, Zack Wilson is no longer the starting quarterback and Mike White is out. In their place, one of the best to ever play the game, Aaron Rodgers. While there is still some unknown with how much juice the 40-year-old quarterback has, there isn’t much doubt there is still some there.

Some analysts are picking the Jets as the AFC East champions in 2023 as well. The team is good but maybe the Texans can pull off the upset here. Being on the road for this one is another strike against the Texans too. The one thing they will have going for them is their offensive line will be much better in 2023 and they should be able to run the ball effectively, even against the stout Jets defense.

The other thing the Texans will have is Will Anderson Jr. Anderson has the potential to be a game wrecker and the best way to disrupt a quarterback of any caliber, is by getting them on the ground, hitting them often, and producing big plays through the pass rush.

. . . 56. . . . 3

The Cincinnati Bengals are considered one of the best teams in the NFL; however, they will lose their division crown to the Baltimore Ravens in 2023. This means the Bengals will be one of those teams battling for a wildcard berth in the playoffs; however, if the Bengals win the division, then swap the Bengals out of this spot, and insert the Ravens instead.

The AFC North is another division that could potentially produce two wildcard teams and all four teams in that division could be possible players in the playoff race. As with the Jets, a win here for the Texans helps make a case for themselves as a playoff contender as well.

The Bengals are a very good team and can get after the quarterback, so the Texans will have their work cut out for them. Can the new-look offensive line protect their quarterback, will they be able to open holes to allow the Texans to control the game with their rushing attack? Will they be able to, at a minimum, contain the Bengals’ passing attack? These are all questions the Texans will have to successfully answer if they hope to win this one.

55. . 2. . . . .

The Steelers are one of those teams in the AFC North that will be contending for a wildcard spot in the playoffs this season. They aren't at the level of the Ravens or Bengals, which is why I put them number two on this list.

Pittsburgh is a very solid team, with talent but this is one the Texans will have to find a way to win if they want to be in the wildcard discussion and I think they can. One thing I've mentioned a few times in writing about the Texans is their run game should be very good. A solid run game and offensive line are a rookie quarterback's best friend.

If the Texans can get their running game with Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary rolling, they will always have a fighting chance in just about every game they play. This one against the Steelers will be no different.

The difference between this one versus that of the Ravens or Bengals is the Texans have a good shot of winning this game. As I said, the Steelers are a good team with talent but they don't have an elite quarterback like Lamar Jackson or Joe Burrow.

. . . 1. . . 53.

As long as Deshaun Watson is playing for the Cleveland Browns, this game will always carry some weight. Even though the two played each other last season, in a Browns victory. Despite the loss by the Texans last season, Watson did not play well, going 12 of 22 for only 131 yards. He did not have any touchdowns and threw one pick. The Texans are a better football team heading into this season but the Browns in theory should be as well.

This game could have playoff implications too, again as I mentioned the AFC North teams all have legitimate playoff hopes. If the Texans can get this win, it would be sweet vindication. This one is a home game for the Texans too.

The Browns are tough to gauge, especially at this time of the year. They still have one of the best backs in the NFL, Nick Chubb, as well as wide receiver, Amari Cooper. Defensively, they were middle of the pack last year and I don’t see anything that will change that for 2023. As far as Watson goes, until he proves otherwise, he’s not the same player he once was.

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