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When will the Houston Texans host the season opener?

With Deshaun Watson leading the charge, the Texans could be real contenders in 2020. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Tonight is the official kick-off to the NFL season as the 2017 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles host the 2016 runner-up Atlanta Falcons. This prime-time game is the league’s way of rewarding the champion by giving them the night to celebrate with the stage to themselves. It got me thinking: when will the Texans have a legitimate shot at bringing opening night to Houston?

I sat down, looked over the current contracts, looked at the weaknesses, then decided the 2020 season is the first time the stars might align for the Texans.

Anytime a team makes the playoffs they have a shot, but this exercise is about a realistic outlook for the future and 2020 is when I think they can not only make the playoffs; but enter with a bye week as a serious threat to win it all.

I think they’ve entered a new era. For the first time in their history they have a quarterback who looks like a real franchise player. They had a good run during the Matt Schaub years, but Deshaun Watson is leaps and bounds ahead of him talent wise. In NFL circles, having a quarterback that can lead a top offense within the time frame of his rookie contract gives them a lot of flexibility.

Houston has their most important offensive players already under contract for the next two years and a lot of cap space to work with. The first thing they will have to fix is the offensive line. Everyone knows they don’t have it right now and it’s going to hold them back. Sure, Watson is still going to make it work but it’s easy to think they can be a top 5 offense with better protection up front.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that one of the new tight ends they drafted in 2018 develops. If DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and a legitimate pass catching tight end are on the field; look out, because Watson will put up MVP numbers.

I think in the next two years the running backs will get a necessary upgrade as well. While I think D’Onta Foreman can play, I’m not convinced he will develop into an every-down back. Sometime in the next two years an investment will have to be made. And not an aging veteran or a late round draft pick. It will have to be someone who can really compliment the offense and prevent any decline in overall performance. I think it happens and the offense gets some serious balance before the 2020 season.

Good news for the Texans, the defense has plenty of its top talent signed to the roster for at least two more years. J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, and Zach Cunningham will all be here to crowd the middle and get after the quarterback. Guys like D.J. Reader and Christian Covington shouldn’t be too expensive to keep around; keeping a solid core intact. The wild card will be Jadeveon Clowney. His is currently in the final year of his contract, but with all the cap room available I feel confident that things will get worked out. That leaves Brain Gaine with only the secondary to overhaul.

It would be nice if Tyrann Mathieu stuck around on a new deal, but I’ll bet that only Justin Reid remains on the roster in 2020. And if you only have one position group to fix, then you’re in good shape. Plenty of defensive backs have been found in the middle rounds or cheaply in free agency. That means that Houston could go into that season with the talent in place to have a championship level defense.

I see a Texans team with an arrow pointing straight up. They only have a few position groups to fix and a new GM to make it happen. Rick Smith may not have done well drafting in the middle rounds, but he loaded this team with stars in the first round. His final act was to draft the future in Deshaun Watson, which will make the next few years a wide-open window of opportunity. He left a few problems on his way out, and in my estimation, it will take two more years to get them fixed.

Every season is different and none of this may work out. Or maybe they catch lightning in a bottle sooner and win it all in 2018 or 2019. It’s going to be fun to watch and find out.


 

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Carlos Correa had a big home run Saturday night. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

With four wins in a row, including the first two of this series, Houston had a chance to keep their momentum going to lock up a series win on Saturday in this four-game set. Although Texas would make it interesting late, the Astros would hold them off to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 6, Rangers 5

Astros' Record: 23-17, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia (1-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dane Dunning (2-3)

Action in the first

After getting trounced the night prior, the Rangers managed to grab early momentum with a run to start the scoring Saturday night against Luis Garcia. It came after a one-out triple set up a sac fly, giving Texas a 1-0 lead. Houston quickly took control back in their favor, though, putting up four in the bottom of the inning on a two-RBI single by Alex Bregman and a two-run homer by Carlos Correa, making it 4-1 Astros.

The scoreboard went quiet after that inning, with both teams slowing down at the plate. Garcia put together a decent night, allowing just the one run over five innings of work, erasing some runners throughout the night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 94 P.

Rangers tighten it up late

Bryan Abreu was the first reliever to enter for Houston, taking over for Garcia in the top of the sixth. He worked around a leadoff single, keeping it a three-run game, then returned for a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. Correa led off with a double in the bottom of the inning, setting up a two-run Kyle Tucker homer, extending his recent hot streak and the lead to 6-1.

Ryne Stanek took over on the mound for Houston in the top of the eighth but worked himself into trouble with a single and walk to set up a three-run homer by Joey Gallo to make it a two-run game at 6-4. He would manage just one out before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Brandon Bielak. Bielak would allow a run while getting the final two outs, making it 6-5.

Astros secure the series

After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, Ryan Pressly would try to notch another save and close the door on the Rangers. He would get the job done, sitting the Rangers down in order, keeping Houston's winning streak intact.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game set will start at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Lance McCullers JR. (3-1, 3.10 ERA), fresh off of a recent gem, will look to continue his success for the Astros, while Kyle Gibson (3-0, 2.28) will try to stay perfect on the season for the Rangers.

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