SETTING THE BAR

At the end of the day, here's how the Texans will ultimately be judged this season

This season is all about improvement for the Texans. Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

Famed British author Charles Dickens wouldn’t be pleased with the Houston Texans’ prospects for the 2022 NFL Season.

Dickens had “Great Expectations.” (That English Lit 202 course finally pays off.) The Texans’ hardly lofty goal is to improve on consecutive 4-win seasons. Baby steps.

The Texans’ season starts Sunday against AFC South rival Indianapolis at NRG Stadium. It’s not exactly the hottest ticket in town. Seats in the balcony can be had for $27 at Ticketmaster, even lower on secondary market sites.

The Texans are 8-point underdogs against the Colts. Get used to it. If you place your bets now, hurry hurry, the Texans are underdogs in all 17 games. As John Lennon said, it can’t get no worse. They’re double-digit dogs at Denver (Sept. 18), at Dallas (Dec. 11) and home against Kansas City (Dec. 18). The closest the Texans come to even money is when equally hapless Jacksonville slinks into NRG Stadium (Jan. 1). Happy New Year, the Texans are only +1.

A record 46 million Americans are expected to bet on NFL games this season. That’s due in part because 31 states now have legalized sports betting. Of course, Texas doesn’t allow sports betting because our governor and lieutenant governor are too busy doing … don’t get me started.

The freakiest game on the Texans schedule is Dec. 4 when Cleveland comes to town. You might have heard of the Browns quarterback, some guy named Deshaun Watson. It will be Watson’s first game back from an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Texans owner Cal McNair dropped a hint this week that the team may offer a jersey swap, you bring in an old Deshaun Watson jersey and the Texans will replace it with a current player’s jersey.

Watson shouldn’t expect an official tribute video from the Texans, but how will the fans “welcome” him back? Will there be 100-percent boos, a mixed reaction, or all is forgiven? Will there be protestors outside the stadium? Tickets still are available for the Watson red carpet rollout, starting at $75 for upstairs and $157 for the lower bowl.

Are you Longshot Louie? The Texans are 40,000-1 to win the Super Bowl. That’s actually worse odds than last year, when they were only 17,500-1 to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Captain Obvious reminds fans that the Texans have never won a Super Bowl, never played in one, never even appeared in an AFC Championship Game. In fact, the Texans total won-loss record since Day One (21 seasons) is 139-182. Lest we forget, the Texans made the playoffs in 2018 and 2019. Lousy happens fast.

For the record, the Astros are Even Steven in franchise history, 4,813-4,813. The Rockets have a winning bottom line, 2,306-2,136.

The Texans are introducing several new food items for the 2022 season, including Hawaiian hot dogs topped with pulled pork, and the Que-Dog topped with smoked brisket and touchdown nachos.

The concourse headliner is Texas Fireworks Pickles, which are pickles marinated in Kool-Aid, rolled in Cheetos and deep-fried. Seriously. This is when you break out the Dixie Cups in the NRG Stadium test kitchen. Note to the head of Texans concessions: you see those men in white lab coats waving butterfly nets? They are here to help you, go with them.

Vegas projects the Texans’ win total at 4.5 games. Baby steps. Another team with a low win projection is the New York Jets (5.5 victories). Curiously, both the Texans and Jets went 3-0 in preseason this year.

That’s not all bad. The 2023 draft appears stacked with franchise-quality quarterbacks, including Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young. Memo to David Mills: you might want to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, otherwise you might be transferring somewhere else for your junior year.

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The Houston Texans loss another heartbreaker on Sunday, and Davis Mills came up short in the fourth quarter once again. But there's plenty of blame to go around. The defense kept the team in the game, but gave up historic numbers on the ground.

Plus, the play calling and use of Rex Burkhead have once again become an issue.

Don't miss the video above as we break down all the action, and look ahead at the big picture.

Catch the Paul Gallant Show weekdays at 10AM on ESPN 97.5 & 92.5FM, Houston.

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