Jan 7, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter of the AFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Oakland Raiders at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The Houston Texans 2017 schedule forces the team to work early in order to prove they are legitimate contenders.
There is nothing forgiving about the early Houston Texans 2017 schedule. After what could be an easy Week 1 home win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Texans will play four-straight playoff contenders, including the defending Super Bowl champions.
Week 2 to Week 7 features five legitimate playoff contenders in six games, with the only easy game likely against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6.
This isn’t going to be the best for the defending AFC South champions. They will have to work early in order to prove that they are legitimate after three straight 9-7 campaigns. The only positive is that the team should be healthy when they take on all of these contenders in quick succession.
Putting aside the early stretch, the Texans may be able to compensate for some losses with an easier later schedule. The four games at the end of the season features two divisional matchups, the hopeless San Francisco 49ers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Division games are always a toss up, but it isn’t unfair to think 3-1 is possible in that stretch.
Here we’ll take a closer look at each quarter of the season to see just how the Houston Texans 2017 schedule treats the team.
Dec 18, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage (3) throws as Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Dan Skuta (55) defends during the second half at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Traveling up to meet the Cincinnati Bengals (hopefully on the heels of a win) isn’t going to be an easy task. Head coach Marvin Lewis hit a speed bump in 2016 but that shouldn’t slow his team down for long. The Bengals feature a dangerous offense and deceptively good defense. It’s a winnable game, but it also isn’t a gimme.
Week 3: at New England Patriots
This could be a revenge match for the Texans as they travel up to Foxboro for a repeat of the 2016 divisional round playoff loss. The Patriots are hot off another Super Bowl and do not easily lose to teams. No matter how good the Houston defense is in 2017, Tom Brady could find a way to pick it apart.
Week 4: vs Tennessee Titans
The Texans bookend the opening quarter of the season with a divisional game against the Tennessee Titans. This one, like the game against the Jags, is at home. Another winnable matchup, the Texans could set the tone in the division with a victory over the Titans, who they tied with in 2016. This is a highly anticipated contest and should be a great game to watch.
Sep 18, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Week 5: vs Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday Night)
In 2015, the Houston Texans went to the playoffs and took on the Kansas City Chiefs only to be slaughtered, 30-0. The Texans got revenge in the regular season of 2016. Call this one the rubber match.
The Texans have a chance, hot off the heels of a game against the Titans, to truly test their mettle. If the Texans can pull out a win here, the team can legitimately call themselves contenders. If they lose, it could be an indication the team is still not ready.
Week 6: vs Cleveland Browns
To end a three-game home stretch, the Houston Texans get an easy one. The Cleveland Browns shouldn’t be a threat, even with Hue Jackson still trying to build a winner. Having them at home is just the icing on the cake. This all serves as a prelude to their bye in Week 7.
Week 8: at Seattle Seahawks
Unfortunately for the Texans, the game against the Seattle Seahawks will be in Seattle where the power of the 12th Man is truly felt. The Seahawks will be every bit as formidable as they usually are and could shut down the high that will come after beating the Browns into the turf.
The problem here is with the bye week. Any momentum the Texans could be building up from Week 6 could dissipate with a tough road game. While it is nice to have an extra week to game plan against Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, it is still tough to walk into Seattle and grab a win.
Week 9: vs Indianapolis Colts
If the Indianapolis Colts want to prove they are actually contenders, they have to beat the Houston Texans at home. that may be a tough ask as the Texans will be clawing for every game they can win after the team’s early tough stretch. The Colts have been 8-8 in back to back years and may not be any better without any significant changes this offseason.
Jan 1, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; View of the Olympic torch at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before an NFL football game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Week 10: at Los Angeles Rams
While the Los Angeles Rams should be better than they were in 2016, this game looks like a win for the Houston Texans. The Texans defense will likely smother quarterback Jared Goff, no matter how much progress he makes in year two. By this point the Texans should be preparing a run at the playoffs while the Rams may already be looking at the 2018 NFL Draft.
A legitimate test for the Texans, it is a boon that the Arizona Cardinals have to come to Houston. The Texans may be able to rattle quarterback Carson Palmer and come away with a win here, but it could be close. The Cardinals are far from an easy out and should also be in the midst of a push to the playoffs. This could be a must-win game for the Texans if they want to win the AFC South as the Texans have the best chance to beat the Cards among AFC South teams.
Week 12: at Baltimore Ravens (Monday Night)
Taking on the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football should be a test as well. John Harbaugh’s Ravens are talented and underperformed in 2016. They will be hungry to prove they are still good enough to be considered among the NFL’s best. The Texans will also have another opportunity to prove they won’t crack under pressure on the big stage with playoff implications on the line.
Week 13: at Tennessee Titans
In the first back to back away games since Weeks 2 and 3, the Texans head up to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans. This game, like the previous games against contenders, could have playoff implications. The Texans will be a good team but the Titans are a surging team. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume the Texans and Titans are neck and neck again at this point in the season.
Aug 14, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Houston Texans running back Akeem Hunt (33) scores a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium. The Texans defeated the 49ers 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Week 14: vs San Francisco 49ers
Another winnable game for the Texans, the San Francisco 49ers are going to be in full-on rebuilding mode for 2017. All eyes in San Fran will be on the 2018 NFL Draft and this could be a walk in the park for the Texans. I would call it a possible trap game if it were in San Francisco, but at home the Texans should get the job done.
Week 15: at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars will likely already be out of contention in the AFC South by this point. Last season they tried to play spoiler and almost beat the Texans as Brock Osweiler gave way to Tom Savage at quarterback. With plenty to play for, expect Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to buckle down and get his team the win.
Week 16: vs Pittsburgh Steelers
A tough game near the end of the season, both the Steelers and Texans should be in contention for the playoffs here. This game will also feature one of the best wide receiver matchups in the 2017 season with DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown facing off.
Expect this game to have real implications and the Steelers will be well prepared under Mike Tomlin. Tomlin has some late-season magic with Pittsburgh, making this game a tough win for the Texans. The best part of this game is that it is in Houston.
Traveling to the Indianapolis Colts is a fine way to end the season. Much like the 2016 finale against the Titans, the Texans may already know if the postseason is possible or not. If the Colts actually rebound from mediocrity, this could decide the AFC South. If they continue to languish, the Texans have a real chance to take a breather before the playoffs.