For what could be a make or break year for Bill O’Brien, the Houston Texans caught all kinds of breaks with their schedule.
Some highlights from their 2017 lineup:
They get the bye in Week 7.
Non divisional road trips — where the Texans have struggled under O’Brien — in Cincinnati (Week 2), New England (Week 3), Seattle (Week 8), Los Angeles (Week 10, against the Rams) and Baltimore (Week 12), with the Patriots and Seahawks coming on extra rest.
Prime time games — which have been less than good for them since 2014, too — against the Bengals, Chiefs (Week 6), Ravens (Week 12) and Steelers (Week 15), with their Christmas Day matchup against Pittsburgh at NRG Stadium also giving them an extra day to prepare.
Short week games — so, basically, the Texans have been pretty much a mess the last three years against everybody and thing outside of the AFC South — against Cincy and Indy (Week 17).
Oh, and one cold (ish) weather game, max, on the road against the Ravens. Even then, there’s a real chance that temperatures don’t break 32 degrees.
That’s about as good as it gets.
Will it be easy? No. There’s no such thing in the NFL.
But favorable? Absolutely.
The worst thing you can say about this schedule is the home stretch, which features three road games against division opponents in a span of five weeks. Even then, since taking over as head coach, O’Brien is 10-5 from Week 13 on, and 14-4 against the AFC South overall.
Let’s put it this way: if the Texans fall flat in 2017, and they’re still one of the worst offenses in the NFL, Mike Vrabel flops in his first year as defensive coordinator and they fail to keep pace with an improving but still flawed division, there will be no excuses for O’Brien.
Batter up, Bill.
Much of their potential rests on JJ Watt and Tom Savage. Watt is coming off of two back surgeries in a span of three months a year ago, and his first missed games of his NFL career. Savage is hoping to avoid a significant injury for the first time as a pro. (He was lost for the year with a knee in 2014, a shoulder in 2015 and suffered a concussion in last year’s regular season finale that ended up being the last time he saw the field). It would also be helpful if he was good and stuff, which remains to be seen.
If all goes well, the Texans have a chance to have one of the best defenses in league history, with Watt lining up alongside Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and Benardrick McKinney, who’s emerged as one of the best up-and-coming linebackers in the game today. They’d also have an offense that, at the very least, would be able to keep from screwing it up.
If not, welp, it could be a long year.
But the first thing that could go their way — the order and particulars of the schedule –absolutely did.
Matt hosts Saturdays from 1-4 pm on SportsRadio 610. You can, and totally should, follow him on Twitter @MattHammondShow.