The Houston Texans hope to build on last season's success with another playoff berth, but it won't be easy.
Though the Texans made drastic improvements on defense, last year's schedule had a lot to do with it.
The schedule was relatively soft, especially near the middle and end of the season, but this season presents an opportunity to prove their legitimacy.
As a result of last year's success, the Texans are scheduled to play in five nationally-televised games. However, history indicates they don't always perform well in those games.
Houston has more to worry about than that, as the schedule contains more contenders than last year.
Here's a look at who poses the toughest matchup for the Texans this season.
Since the birth of the franchise, Peyton Manning has been the bane of the Texans' existence.
Things are a little different this time.
Since it's early in the season, the Broncos may not be fully in rhythm under Manning, but they'll still be formidable.
Manning has yet to face the revamped Texans defense, but being at home is a big advantage. Houston fell victim to "Tebowmania" late in the 2010 season.
The altitude is something to take into account as well.
The defense contained the Saints for the majority of the game until they collapsed in the fourth quarter and gave up 23 points.
The Packers will serve as a good test for how much the defense has matured since then.
Will this finally be the season?
Last year in the regular season, the Texans went into Baltimore without Mario Williams and Andre Johnson. The defense held up rather well, but it eventually collapsed again in the fourth quarter.
Houston went back into Baltimore for the AFC divisional playoffs and played a much closer game, but this time without Matt Schaub.
There's no telling what the injury situation will be like by this point in the season, but if the Texans' core is relatively healthy, it should make for another hard-fought game.
Until they beat Baltimore, the Ravens will continue to be a huge monkey on Houston's back.
The Texans will travel to Detroit for the first Thanksgiving game in the franchise's history.
While the matchup is relatively insignificant in terms AFC playoff picture, it's still important for national exposure.
They haven't done much to help their reputation on national television, but this is yet another opportunity they can take advantage of.
Detroit is a young team whose core is built for the future and has some of the most talented players in the league at its respective positions.
Matt Stafford is coming off a very productive season, and Calvin Johnson has proven he's the league's toughest matchup at receiver.
Their defense on the backend might be a bit in flux, but the Lions will definitely be a team that will be fighting for a playoff spot in a tough division and looking for every win they can get.
As it stands, the AFC goes through New England.
If the Texans are in play for playoff seeding, this game will go a long way in determining whether the Texans can get a first-round bye.
The cold weather could work against Houston, but a strong running game will help fight through the weather and keep Tom Brady off the field.