Congratulations, Houston Texans!
Your reward for winning the AFC South and a playoff game in the wild-card round for the second year in a row is a 2013 schedule that includes six teams who also made the playoffs as well as both Super Bowl contestants.
The trade-off for getting to meet your new nemesis the New England Patriots at home is facing both Baltimore and San Francisco on the road. Throw in Denver and Seattle in addition to a pair of matchups against division rival Indianapolis, and it all looks pretty tough at first glance.
Based on an opponent win-loss percentage of 47.3, this schedule is tied with Buffalo and the Kansas City Chiefs for 27th. It helps to have both 2-14 teams from 2012 on the docket—the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs.
The toughest part is the following three-game stretch: Baltimore, the home game vs.Seattle and the away game at San Francisco. It is conceivable that the Texans could be 3-2 or even 2-3 after their first five, a far cry from the 5-0 start of 2012.
The order of each slide corresponds to the relative difficulty of each game. The easiest is Jacksonville in Week 12, the hardest is the New England Patriots in Week 13. There are back-to-back slides for division opponents, which assumes little will change with these teams over the course of the season.
Based on 2012 and how the Texans swooned down the stretch, that may end up being a faulty assumption. If this team fails to improve as the weeks roll on, do not expect this year to end any differently than the last.