NFL SEASON STARTS WITH A BANG

Everything you need to know about the Texans' 2020 schedule

Photo by Getty Images and composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2020 Houston Texans season is one that will garner the attention of many NFL fans, not just those that reside in the city that calls the team home. Everyone from casual fans to NFL front offices around the league will take a weekly look at the unusually ran, professional football team in Southeast Texas.

The next chapter in the book of Bill O'Brien inked the first few pages on Thursday evening. The schedule for O'Brien's Texans squad was released. While the opponents have been known for some time, how those games are scheduled can offer some clear advantages and disadvantages. There's some glass half-full / glass half-empty elements to Houston's upcoming games.

Week 1THU - Sept 10th7:20 pm@ Kansas City Chiefs
Week 2
SUN - Sept 20th3:25 pmvs Baltimore Ravens
Week 3SUN - Sept 27thNOON@ Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 4SUN - Oct 4thNOONvs Minnesota Vikings
Week 5SUN - Oct 11thNOONvs Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 6SUN - Oct 18thNOON@ Tennessee Titans
Week 7SUN - Oct 25thNOONvs Green Bay Packers
Week 8SUN - Nov 1st---bye
Week 9SUN - Nov 8thNOON@ Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 10SUN - Nov 15thNOON@ Cleveland Browns
Week 11SUN - Nov 22ndNOONvs New England Patriots
Week 12THU - Nov 26th11:30 pm@ Detroit Lions
Week 13SUN - Dec 6thNOONvs Indianapolis Colts
Week 14SUN - Dec 13thNOON@ Chicago Bears
Week 15Dec 19th / Dec 20thTBD@ Indianapolis Colts
Week 16SUN - Dec 27thNOONvs Cincinnati Bengals
Week 17SUN - Jan 3rdNOONvs Tennessee Titans

Positives:

  • No games west of Houston (all games in central and eastern time zones)
  • Advantageous schedule after the bye
  • NFL Season kickoff game against the defending champs
  • Thanksgiving day game
  • Last two games at home
  • All offseason to prepare for defending champs & 10 days to prepare for the Ravens

Negatives:

  • Only 2 National Games (No Monday Night or Sunday Night Football games)
  • Difficult opening 7 games, including the top 2 teams in the AFC in the first 2 games
  • Face 5 of 2019's Top 10 offenses
  • Face 7 of 2019's Top 10 defenses
  • Face 3 of the 4 teams that reportedly have interest in former Texan, Jadeveon Clowney
NOTES on Games:
@ Kansas City: Deshaun Watson's first game without DeAndre Hopkins. David Johnson, Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb get introduced to Houston's Goliath in the AFC. Patrick Mahomes vs Deshaun Watson...could this be the new Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning? The NFL didn't think much about the Texans this season, scheduling the team with only two national games, both on Thursday. Yet, they haven't soured on Houston's signal-caller. Watson vs Mahomes was an easy choice for the NFL, selected two picks apart with both of their teams trading up for them in the 2017 NFL Draft. Coming off a playoff matchup in which Watson led his team to a 24-0 lead before Mahomes stormed back, outscoring the Texans 51-7 from that point on.

Has Houston with Anthony Weaver in his first season as defensive coordinator come up a with a defensive strategy for the Chiefs better than the last one Houston implemented in the playoffs, that consisted basically of allowing Travis Kelce to treat the Texans defenders like a Kardashian on All-Star weekend?

Andy Reid added rookie, running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire to the loaded offense of Mahomes, Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman. Reid is also, wisely, bringing in six undrafted wide receivers. It's smart to take so many shots at what was called the deepest position group in years. While the Chiefs may not need receiver help right now, with a young gun like Mahomes, it's smart to keep multiple bullets in the chamber.

Ricky Seals-Jones also comes over the Kansas City. I mention the former Aggie as I always liked him as a prospect that could develop into a good receiving tight end if given the right opportunity to grow. In the Chiefs offense, he could surprise.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: LOSS (0-1)

vs Baltimore: Ravens and Lamar Jackson fans probably objected rather quickly to the thought of Watson/Mahomes becoming the next Brady/Manning. After all, their guy just won Most Valuable Player of the NFL, the year after Mahomes took the honor. In an offseason where Watson lost his biggest weapon, the reigning MVP enjoyed seeing more added to his armory. JK Dobbins was drafted in the second round of last month's NFL Draft. Devin Duvernay and James Proche join Dobbins as rookies added to the mix of Baltimore's high-powered offense.

The Ravens continue to improve on their defense as well. Baltimore had several key additions with veterans led by Calais Campbell and youth with guys like Patrick Queen. Even with the recent troubles of Earl Thomas, if you asked me if this defense was going to be top five, gun-to-my-head, I'd say, "yes."

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: LOSS (0-2)

@ Pittsburgh: The Watt Bowl! JJ Watt would be going up against both his brothers when the Texans head to Pittsburgh. Derek Watt joined, brother TJ with the Steelers earlier this offseason. In Houston, the Watts would have to take a backseat to the fact that Houston was 0-2 and on the road vs a tough Steelers squad. If Houston starts the season 0-3, O'Brien's seat would start to get uncomfortable, after the eyebrow-raising run as General Manager.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: LOSS (0-3)


vs Minnesota: If Houston started the season 0-3, this would be a game that O'Brien would feel the pressure in. At home, against a talented Vikings team, it wouldn't be "must-win" but it would be extremely difficult for O'Brien to dig himself out of a hole that he dug as head coach and general manager.

Minnesota replaced Stefon Diggs with Justin Jefferson this offseason and Xavier Rhodes' departure has led to the addition of first round selection Jeff Gladney. The Vikings took another cornerback, Cameron Dantzler, one pick ahead of Houston's selection at 90th overall. Houston had a need at cornerback and later selected John Reid out of Penn State. The Texans used the 90th pick on edge prospect, Jonathan Greenard.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: WIN (1-3)


vs Jacksonville: Bless their heart.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: WIN (2-3)


@ Tennessee: Can Ryan Tannehill duplicate what he did in 2019? The Titans and Texans are close in talent, as are the Colts. If Tannehill can be as reliable as he was last season, the Titans get the edge. They're most likely to split the series with each other. Mike Vrabel will need to get a lot out of Harold Landry and Vic Beasley, even if he's able to convince Clowney to move to Nashville for a year. They'll miss Jurrell Casey. I understand the move, but I'm not sure they realize how much they're going to miss him.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: LOSS (2-4)


vs Green Bay: Houston gets to play the Packers and it's not December in Lambeau. That's a win right there...only, it's a loss. The Packers aren't a great team, but they're better than the Texans this season. A name that we've talked about on this Green Bay roster that's worth keeping an eye out for, is Jamaal Williams. After the Packers selected AJ Dillon in the second round to pair with Aaron Jones, Williams finds himself of the roster bubble. He'd be a great addition to a Texans backfield of DJ squared.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: LOSS (2-5)


BYE WEEK: It's the merciful bye week. It's two weeks of sports talk centered around "who should replace Bill O'Brien." But, did we write him off too quick? Afterall, Bill O'Brien is the guy who doesn't die in horror movies. Have we not learned? You can't kill off Billy O! Blow a 24-0 lead in the playoffs and then get outscored the rest of the game 51-7...then get promoted. Remember when Houston started 0-3 and then went on an incredible winning streak? You...can't...kill...Billy...O! He'll always survive. He'll be mediocre, but he'll survive.


vs Jacksonville:At this point, I wonder if they're still pretending that they believe Gardner Minshew is the future or if they are just openingly tanking for Trevor Lawrence.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: WIN (3-5)


@ Cleveland: Every time you go out on a limb and think that the Browns are going to be good, they burn you. I'm prepared to be burned again. I believe that the Browns will be much improved with the two new offensive tackles of Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry now have another weapon joining them in the passing game with Austin Hooper. Baker Mayfield can sling it around the yard or hand it off to the duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Houston gets this Browns team on the backend of their first back-to-back road games in the 2020 season.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: LOSS (3-6)


vs New England: I continue to believe that the Patriots will tank this season. They're set up for a ton of compensatory picks after letting so many studs leave in free agency. They're pretending that Jarrett Stidham has a shot at being the next Tom Brady. They've won a Super Bowl every three years for the past 20 years, almost. Now, Brady is able to depart and oh, hey, by the way, Trevor Lawrence is coming out after this season. Suck for one year and imagine what Bill Belichick's legacy would be with 10-15-20- years of Lawrence, on the back of Brady.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: WIN (4-6)


@ Detroit: Matt Patricia may be the first coach fired in 2020. If the Lions really backed out of a trade with the Texans right as time was expiring on their selection in the draft, then expect O'Brien to have some extra emphasize on this one. Deshaun Watson won't be targeting Darius Slay in this game as he was shipped out of Detroit this offseason. Newly aquired Desmond Trufant and the top cornerback in the draft, Jeff Okudah, will be tasked with defending Houston's speedsters.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: WIN (5-6)


vs Indianapolis: The Colts are reloaded and it'll be interesting to see how the gel in their first season. Philip Rivers takes over the offense that now sees Michael Pittman Jr and Jonathan Taylor added to the skill positions which already included Marlon Mack, T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell will enter his second season. Trey Burton gives them added flexibility in the offense, as well. On the defensive side of the ball, the Colts added DeForest Buckner from the 49ers, while also scoping up Xavier Rhodes to play in the secondary.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: WIN (6-6)


@ Chicago: Mitch Trubisky will try to prove that he can be an NFL starter this year, while Nick Foles is ready for Chicago if Trubisky can't take a step forward. The Bears look to be a mediocre team this year. They could have an elite defense but I can't image an offense this season in which Chicago will be able to take advantage of the defensive talent.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: WIN (7-6)


@ Indianapollis: In these divisonal matchups, they will most likely be splits. I'd expect Indy to take this one at home. Just like with the Browns loss, this too would be the backend of road games back-to-back. It'll also be the second look that Rivers had at the Texans and more time with his personnel to develop more chemistry.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: LOSS (7-7)


vs Cincinnati: The Texans get their first look at this year's number one pick overall, Joe Burrow. The Bengals were able to get that pick for being the worst team in the NFL last season. Even with the addition of DJ Reader this offseason, they're still among the worst teams in the league.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: WIN (8-7)


vs Tennessee: I think the Titans will be ahead of the Texans in the division at this point and may even be able to take this game off. This game would mean something to the Texans as they would look to move to 9-7. Due to it being a home game with so much on the line, Houston should be able to end the year strong.

Braddock's way-too-early season prediction: WIN (9-7)


The Texans schedule starts out tough but the backend seems extremely manageable. If they can even go 3-4 before the bye, they would be setup for another playoff run. You can hate the DeAndre Hopkins trade. You can hate the Jadeveon Clowney trade. You can hate the Laremy Tunsil trade and contract. But if O'Brien goes 9-7 and makes the playoff again, he'll be promoted to owner.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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