LOOKING AHEAD

What to know about the 2018 Texans schedule

Bill O'Brien and Deshaun Watson will have an interesting schedule to deal with in 2018. Getty Images

The Texans already knew they had the fourth place schedule and would be facing the Browns and Broncos as well as teams from the NFC East and AFC East as well as their six games against the AFC South. Last night they found out the order and kickoff times. That’s the most important part of it.

And despite the Texans getting the easiest schedule based on win percentage from 2017, it’s not as simple as the numbers suggest.

Let’s break it all down and try and get an idea of how the schedule might determine their record.

  1. Starting on the road against 2 tough opponents.

They start Week 1 in Gillete Stadium against the New England Patriots and head to Nashville for a Week 2 divisional game against the Titans.

It’s tough to start the season on the road, it’s even tougher to start on the road against the AFC Champions. The Patriots have a pretty good record against the Texans the last few years and although they have shown vulnerability in early season games this will be a challenge for the Texans.

Follow that up with a road game against a divisional foe that made the playoffs last year and you have what could easily be an 0-2 start. It will be up to the Texans defense to slow down Tennessee’s run game and make this a low scoring affair.

  1. The next 3 out of 4 are at home and all 4 are winnable.

They come home for the Giants in week 3, who finished 2017 with 2 wins; then hit the road for their first meeting with the Colts and return to Houston for games with the Cowboys and Bills. Only the Bills made the playoffs last year but they have undergone offensive changes at the quarterback and receiver positions so an early visit to Houston may be an advantage for the Texans.

The Cowboys game is the first of three scheduled in prime time, which sets up for a nice challenge. The Texans haven’t always done well outside of Sunday afternoon, and they haven’t always done well against their in-state opponent. The schedule might work in their favor this year because it’s a home game in a stretch when the Texans should be finding their groove. The loss of Dez Bryant might hurt the Cowboys’ offense at a time when they aren’t ready for a stout defense.

  1. The Jaguars

If the Texans can somehow manage 3-4 wins in the first 6 weeks of the season they will be in a good position for their Week 7 matchup on the road in Jacksonville. Midseason is when a team should start to find its groove and figure out who they are. The Jacksonville defense will probably be playing well so it might be a low scoring game. This one could rest on the shoulders of the quarterback, if that’s the case then I will bet on Houston.

  1. The great late season push

The Texans will face the Dolphins at home on Thursday night in Week 8 and the Broncos in Denver before their week 10 bye. Both are potential wins if the team is healthy and playing at or near its potential.

After the break they have five winnable games: at Washington; home against the Titans on Monday night, then Browns and Colts; wrapped up with a road game against the Jets.

Those are seven winnable games if Houston is firing on all cylinders. It will be later in the season and injuries will probably be a factor so I am going to assume the Texans can get through this stretch with 4 or 5 wins. Houston can be in position for a wild card if everything goes well heading into the final 2 weeks of the season.

  1. The Final 2 games might be do or die

Just to make sure it’s no easy road to the playoffs for a former last place team, the scheduler left the Texans with two final games that should determine their fate.

In week 16 they hit the road to face the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles and wrap up the season against the AFC runner-up Jacksonville Jaguars. Neither of which are considered winnable right now. This is the kind of “F You!” the NFL sometimes throws in there to keep a team who might have just gone through an off year from having a clear and easy path to the playoffs.

Just because the Texans have the fourth place schedule, and the easiest; it may not be an easy road. These final two games will most likely determine the playoff fate of the Texans. It’s only fitting that they are against some of the toughest teams. Hopefully they can get at least a split and secure a playoff spot.

Taking into account the full scope of the schedule; this looks like it might be another 9-7 season. That’s better than the 4-12 from last year, but it might not be enough to get into the playoffs and just enough to be a successful turnaround. Anything can happen and teams can play above their expectations, the Texans being one of the teams fully capable of doing so.

 This is a team loaded with talent, especially on defense; that has the potential to win more games than would have been thought. If the star players stay healthy they can ride this into a playoff spot and there they can upset the balance of the AFC postseason. It will take a lot of effort and great coaching to get there but it can be done. After all, this was a team that two years ago had the No. 1 defense, and at one-point last year had the highest scoring offense with Deshaun Watson at quarterback. If all of the cards fall into place then the Texans will be a formidable team. If there are any struggles or injuries it might be another long season that teases a playoff spot.

Now it’s just a waiting game to see what additions and subtractions help finalize the roster as we all eagerly await the opening game on Sept. 9.  


 

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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