*Photo Credit: Combined Arms
2016 Record: 9-7
NFL Draft: Rd 1- QB, Deshaun Watson; Rd 2- ILB, Zach Cunningham; Rd 3- RB, D’Onta Foreman; Rd 4- OT, Julie’n Davenport; Rd 4- DT, Carlos Watkins; Rd 5- DB, Treston Decoud; Rd 7- C, Kyle Fuller
Pitt Players: QB, Tom Savage #3; WR, Devin Street #18
After last year’s defeat in the playoffs to the New England Patriots, the Houston Texans look to defend their AFC South crown against a division which is home to the up-and-coming Tennessee Titans with Marcus Mariota at the helm. Though Watt was confined to the bench for the 2016 season with a back injury, the Texans still managed to field the number one ranked defense and earn a playoff spot. Even with the loss of AJ Bouye to the in-division Jacksonville Jaguars, this defense is still a force to be reckoned with, and should pose as the team’s biggest strength throughout the season.
Obviously, the biggest question on this Texans team this year (once again) is the quarterback situation. In head coach Bill O’Brien’s tenure with the team, the Houston Texans have started 8 different quarterbacks under center. In that same period, the Cleveland Browns have started less QBs! Granted, the Texans have had a far and away more successful team, but the key to being a consistently competitive team in the NFL is having a good starting quarterback. If he doesn’t start the season in Week 1, I am completely confident that it will not take long for Watson to take the starting job.
Game by Game Predictions:
Week 1: Home vs the Jacksonville Jaguars
I think that by the end of the preseason, Deshaun Watson will be the starting quarterback for the Houston Texans. The Jaguars may not be so great on the offensive side, but their defense shouldn’t be overlooked. This offseason they added former Texan AJ Bouye and a great defensive end in Calais Campbell from the Cardinals. Despite the Jaguars defensive strength, the NFL is still an offensive league, and Jacksonville lacks an offense that can keep up with the Texans’ weapons. I give this one to the Texans.
Predicted Score: 24-10 Texans (Current Record: 1-0)
Week 2: Away at Cincinnati Bengals
I really don’t know who the Cincinnati Bengals are. Marvin Lewis is the head coach of a team that is perennially undisciplined and fails in the biggest moments. The Bengals have an aging defense; and I can’t see them stopping the likes of Watson, Deandre Hopkins, and Lamar Miller. To their credit, the Bengals have a solid offense, with former Pitt man Tyler Boyd at wide receiver next to AJ Green, but that won’t be enough to stop the Texans. The defense will prove too much for the Bengals offense on this Thursday Night matchup, and I can see the Texans winning this game comfortably.
Predicted Score: 28-17 Texans (Current Record: 2-0)
Week 3: Away at the New England Patriots
I feel like I don’t need to say much. Tom Brady is 50-1 against AFC opponents at home since 2007, I don’t expect the Texans to raise the number in the loss column. This will be a humbling loss for the Texans in Week 3. Just as it was when the Texans lost 27-0 last year in Foxborough during the same week.
Predicted Score: 21-3 Patriots (Current Record: 2-1)
Week 4: Home vs the Tennessee Titans
A big divisional game for the Texans in Week 4 as the Titans come to town, after having nearly made the playoffs in 2016. I have no doubt that it will be a blast to see Mariota and that Titans offense battle Watson and the Texans O. The big difference here will be the defenses. I think these offenses are pretty even in terms of overall talent, but I think the Texans have a better defense than the Titans.
Predicted Score: 14-10 Texans (Current Record: 3-1)
Week 5: Home vs the Kansas City Chiefs
A huge game in Week 5 as the Chiefs come to town for a Sunday Night game against the Texans. This will be Watson’s first Sunday Night experience, but this is a guy who went to two straight National Championships, and we all know how the second one ended. This is an interesting matchup because I think both of these teams are well-matched on both the offense and the defense. I really think this game could come down to field position and special teams, and since that’s the case I have to hand this one to the Chiefs and Tyreek Hill.
Predicted Score: 24-21 Chiefs (Current Record: 3-2)
Week 6: Home vs the Cleveland Browns
Let’s keep this one short, the Browns stink.
Predicted Score: 35-10 Texans (Current Record: 4-2)
Week 7: Bye-Week
I always love mid-to-late season bye-weeks. A nice bye-week in middle the of the season leaves the Houston Texans with 10 games left to play, and going into their final stretch they sit at 4-2.
Week 8: Away at the Seattle Seahawks
I’ll say it as it is, I am not scared by the Seattle Seahawks anymore. The Houston Texans shouldn’t fear this team either, as they have a better defense than the Seahawks and will be off a bye. When I look at the Seahawks’ offense, I can’t really pick out a player that scares me, and that offensive line is going to be destroyed by the Texans pass rush. JJ Watt could get 3 sacks in this game and it won’t surprise anyone. I think the Texans can win this one, though it could be close in a thunderous CenturyLink Field.
Predicted Score: 17-14 Texans (Current Record: 5-2)
Week 9: Home vs the Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are a weird team, and I could probably write a whole piece about how poorly this team has been managed over the past few years. That said, I look at the Colts and don’t see a team with nearly enough talent to defeat the Texans. TY Hilton isn’t a Top 10 Wide Receiver in the NFL, but he’s the best wideout this team has. The Texans shouldn’t sweat this in-division game.
Predicted Score: 21-10 Texans (Current Record: 6-2)
Week 10: Away at the Los Angeles Rams
The Rams stink, even with Sammy Watkins and Todd Gurley on that offense. They might as well play Aaron Donald at every position. Easy win for Houston here.
Predicted Score: 28-3 Texans (Current Record: 7-2)
Week 11: Home vs the Arizona Cardinals
This one is a tough call for me. I think David Johnson is a Top 3 NFL Running back, but there are some question marks for the Cardinals offense. I think the Cardinals will either be the team we saw in 2015, who went 13-3 and won the division; or the team that disappointed us last year. I think this will be a fun one to watch, but I have to give it to the surging Texans.
Predicted Score: 21-17 Texans (Current Record: 8-2)
Week 12: Away at the Baltimore Ravens
After disappointing 2015 and 2016 campaigns, the Baltimore Ravens will look to rejoin the playoff race in 2017. I can’t see that happening though, as they have a weak wide receiving core and backfield on offense. They also have a slew of injuries on this team. The Texans come into this one red hot, and I can’t see the Ravens winning, though it’ll be tight.
Predicted Score: 17-10 Texans (Current Record: 9-2)
Week 13: Away at the Tennessee Titans
I think the Titans can be a playoff team this year, and they’ll look to get a huge win against their in-division rival. I think this will be a fun, late season matchup, but a hungry young team in the Titans will win this game.
Predicted Score: 10-7 Titans (Current Record: 9-3)
Week 14: Home vs the San Francisco 49ers
No question marks here, the Texans win this one with ease.
Predicted Score: 42-14 Texans (Current Record: 10-3)
Week 15: Away at the Jacksonville Jaguars
As much as I criticized the Jaguars in Week 1, I never count out upsets. I think the Texans get stunned in Jacksonville by a Top 10 defense, and the race for the AFC South crown gets interesting. Blake Bortles could have a nice game this week (or not). Jaguars win it with a buzzer beater.
Predicted Score: 13-10 Jaguars (Current Record: 10-4)
Week 16: Home vs the Pittsburgh Steelers
An 8 day rest before a game against a top flight NFL team is always nice. A Christmas Day game against the Pittsburgh Steelers where the Watt brothers play is even nicer. I may be biased towards my Steelers, but I have to give Pittsburgh the win. Texans have a better defense, but the Steelers are just a better overall team. These two teams could meet in the playoffs. Regardless of this game’s result, it’s gonna be a load of fun to watch.
Predicted Score: 21-10 Steelers (Current Record: 10-5)
Week 17: Away at the Indianapolis Colts
I think the Texans enter this game having already clinched a playoff spot. I’m really disappointed they won’t play the Titans here instead of in Week 13. Regardless, I think this is an easy win for the Texans, and they’ll clinch the AFC South title here. Expect them to pull starters by the third quarter if their playoff spot is secured.
Predicted Score: 31-21 Texans (Current Record: 11-5)
The Texans are going to be a good team this year. I think they’ll make the playoffs, but it won’t be as easy this year with the Titans breathing down their necks. That said, I expect Deshaun Watson to have a solid rookie season, and since he’s on a good team he’ll definitely be in consideration for Rookie of the Year. I can see the Texans entering the playoffs as a the 3 Seed if they win the South, or the 5 Seed as a Wild Card.
Predicted Record: 11-5