The Houston Texans' 2013 season was nothing short of a nightmare.
With expectations sky high after a 12-4 campaign in 2012, Gary Kubiak's squad rolled out of the gates with two straight victories, but things quickly apart. Play under center was wildly inconsistent, seemingly no one could stay healthy on the offensive side of the ball (they were down to Dennis Johnson at running back by the end of the year), the defense was disappointing considering the amount of weapons on that side of the ball and Kubiak was fired after 11 consecutive defeats.
Wade Phillips didn't do much better, as the Texans dropped their final three games of the season, finishing on a laughable 14-game losing streak.
For most franchises, that kind of season would probably suggest a decade of failure, but there is hope for the Texans to immediately bounce back.
They still have legitimate stars on both sides of the ball in Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing and Johnathan Joseph. They've revamped the coaching staff, most notably adding sought-after head coach Bill O'Brien.
I like every aspect about him. He had a strong, positive impact on the Patriots.
I learned a lot from Billy. He's well-prepared and smart. He has a good understanding of all aspects of the game. He's great to work with. I've got nothing but positive things to say about Billy.
Although they've been quiet in free agency, the Texans have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which will either land them an unbelievable physical specimen in Jadeveon Clowney or a quarterback they so desperately need.
Finally, if you're still not yet optimistic about the 2014 season, the schedule is decidedly softer than last year's.
|2014 Houston Texans Regular-Season Schedule|
|1||Sunday, 9/7||Washington Redskins||1 p.m.||FOX|
|2||Sunday, 9/14||at Oakland Raiders||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|3||Sunday, 9/21||at New York Giants||1 p.m.||CBS|
|4||Sunday, 9/28||Buffalo Bills||1 p.m.||CBS|
|5||Sunday, 10/5||at Dallas Cowboys||1 p.m.||CBS|
|6||Thursday, 10/9||Indianapolis Colts||8:25 p.m.||CBS|
|7||Monday, 10/20||at Pittsburgh Steelers||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|8||Sunday, 10/26||at Tennessee Titans||1 p.m||FOX|
|9||Sunday, 11/2||Philadelphia Eagles||1 p.m||FOX|
|11||Sunday, 11/16||at Cleveland Browns||1 p.m||CBS|
|12||Sunday, 11/23||Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m||CBS|
|13||Sunday, 11/30||Tennessee Titans||1 p.m||CBS|
|14||Sunday, 12/7||at Jacksonville Jaguars||1 p.m||CBS|
|15||Sunday, 12/14||at Indianapolis Colts||1 p.m||CBS|
|16||Sunday, 12/21||Baltimore Ravens||1 p.m||CBS|
|17||Sunday, 12/28||Jacksonville Jaguars||1 p.m||CBS|
It's almost impossible to accurately forecast the strength of a schedule based on opponents' records from the previous season, but it's pretty clear the Texans got a break.
Last year, Houston played all eight of the NFC and AFC West teams. Once the laughing stocks of the NFL, those divisions produced five playoff teams (with the 10-6 Arizona Cardinals not being one of the them), three of the four conference championship participants, both Super Bowl participants and, of course, the Super Bowl champion in 2013.
Of those eight teams, the Texans only have to play the Oakland Raiders in 2014.
Now, Oakland has added a lot of experience and seriously improved in the offseason, but if you had to choose one team to play from those two divisions, The Silver and Black would probably still be the choice.
Replacing the NFC and AFC West on the schedule? That would be the NFC East and AFC North.
On the surface, it's tough to ask for a better scenario than that. The NFC East was one of the worst—and most inconsistent—divisions in football last year, while the AFC North, although typically known for its physical brand of football, produced just one team above .500.
Don't rush to conclusions, though.
After the former signed sought-after wide receiver DeSean Jackson, The Washington Post's Mike Jones summed up the team's progress:
Still, outside their division, the Texans don't have one road game against a team that was above .500 in 2013. Again, those things obviously change, but there's not much more this team could have asked for in terms of its schedule.
Divisional matchups are obviously the most pivotal on the schedule, but if the Texans can get through their NFC East and AFC North opponents with five or six wins, they will be in wonderful shape to return to the postseason.
However the quarterback situation shakes out could still swing things significantly, but expect marked improvement from Houston in 2014.