Houston Texans Schedule 2014: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game
2013 did not go at all according to plan for the Houston Texans.
After winning the AFC South in 2011 and 2012, the Texans entered the 2013 campaign as a Super Bowl favorite in some eyes. When the team won their first two games, everything appeared to be going just as it should.
The Texans didn't win another game the rest of the season.
You name it, it went wrong. Quarterback Matt Schaub completely fell apart. Injuries hit both sides of the ball. It was just a mess.
However, with the release of the 2014 NFL schedule, hope springs anew for the Texans, who hold the first overall pick in May's NFL draft.
So, as we look towards the future, here's a game-by-game look at how the 2014 campaign might shake out for all the new faces who will be playing in Reliant Stadium this year.
Week 1: Vs. Washington Redskins
The Storyline: Misery Loves Company
In 2012, the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins were the champions of their respective divisions. The two teams were a combined 22-10.
Last year, that number plummeted to 5-27, and had the Redskins not traded their first-round pick away they'd be picking just behind the Texans in May.
In other words, this isn't going to be the featured game of the season's opening week, folks.
The Score: Texans 33, Redskins 20
Both these teams will be looking for a rapid turnaround in 2014, and while all the talk in the nation's capital has been about the acquisition of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, the Redskins didn't do nearly enough to upgrade one of the NFL's worst defenses from a year ago.
That will set the stage for one of Houston's best offensive performances of the year and an easy home win.
Week 2: At Oakland Raiders
The Storyline: Sweet, Sweet Revenge
The Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders went a combined 6-26 last year but have taken different paths toward getting better in 2014.
The Texans have been relatively quiet in free agency, while the Raiders brought in a fistful of aging veterans, including defensive ends Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley and running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
The Score: Texans 27, Raiders 14
Granted, in a season where a team loses 14 games in a row there are going to be plenty of low spots, but last year's nadir for the Houston Texans may well have been Week 11, when an Oakland Raiders team that won all of four games last year downed the Texans in Houston. It's a safe bet many of the Texans veterans haven't forgotten that game.
Meanwhile, the Raiders' spending spree smacks of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Many of those veterans were brought in to replace younger (and in some cases, better) players who left.
It's going to be another long year in Oakland, but the Texans are off to a (hypothetical) 2-0 start.
Week 3: At New York Giants
The Storyline: Big Game in the Big Apple
It's a theme that runs throughout the Texans' 2014 schedule. Most of Houston's games are either against teams who struggled just as mightily as Houston did last year or teams that entered last season with playoff dreams that were summarily jackstomped.
That includes a trip to face the New York Giants, who have gone from champions of Super Bowl XLVI to missing the playoffs each of the past two years.
It's been a busy offseason for Big Blue. Wideout Hakeem Nicks and end Justin Tuck are gone, and the G-Men took a buzz saw to the secondary, including the additions of cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
The Score: Giants 26, Texans 20
If the Texans can force a few Eli Manning turnovers (not exactly unheard of), this is a winnable game, especially if the Giants struggle to generate a pass rush again in 2014.
However, much like the Texans, the Giants are a more talented team than their 2013 record indicates, and that same Manning who was so fond of throwing picks last year also has a pair of Super Bowl rings.
That newfangled secondary may well be the difference in this game, as Ryan Fitzpatrick (or rookie signal-callers, for that matter) has been known to throw an interception (or five) in his day, too.
Week 4: Vs. Buffalo Bills
The Storyline: How Quick Will the Rebuild Be?
The Kansas City Chiefs showed last season that an NFL team can make a quick turnaround, going from the first overall pick in 2013 to the playoffs. With that said, if the Houston Texans are going to make a similarly quick rebound, then games like this late September home tilt with the Bills are effectively "must wins."
Of course, the Bills are also looking to make some headway in 2014, although much will depend on the maturation of quarterback E.J. Manuel and how well the Bills adjust to yet another scheme change on defense.
The Score: Texans 21, Bills 17
The Bills ranked 28th against the run last year. The arrival of new coordinator Jim Schwartz could signal some improvement in that regard, but this matchup should afford the Texans an excellent chance to get back to the run game that led the team to so much success in recent years.
A big day from tailback Arian Foster propels the Texans to victory here, and four weeks into the season, the Texans have bested last year's win total.
Week 5: At Dallas Cowboys
The Storyline: The Battle for Texas
The Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys both missed the playoffs last year, but for very different reasons. For the Texans, it was a fiasco at the quarterback spot. For the Cowboys, it was a defense that was the NFL's worst by a decent margin.
That defense could be an issue once again in 2014. A lack of salary-cap room led to the release of star defensive end DeMarcus Ware, with tackle Jason Hatcher (who led the team in sacks a year ago) following Ware out the door.
The Score: Texans 31, Cowboys 30
The Texans have already addressed the quarterback position by signing Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the team may well do so again early in this year's draft. The Cowboys, on the other hand, somehow figured out a way to get worse defensively with the loss of Ware and Hatcher.
The Texans win a shootout, picking up what may well be their biggest win of the year away from home.
Week 6: Vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Storyline: A Thursday Night AFC South Litmus Test
It wasn't that long ago that their roles were reversed, with the Colts looking up at the Texans, but last year's division title and playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs has Indianapolis sitting pretty atop the division.
A home victory over their division foes would be something of a signature win for first-year head coach Bill O'Brien, especially since it would give the Texans first place in the South well into October.
It won't be easy. The addition of Hakeem Nicks added another weapon for quarterback Andrew Luck, and D'Qwell Jackson's arrival strengthened a shaky Colts defense inside.
The Score: Texans 24, Colts 23
Hey, it's the season for optimism, right?
The Texans are a much better team (especially defensively) than last year's 2-14 fiasco, and these are two teams who know one another very well. A late turnover sets the stage for a DeAndre Hopkins touchdown catch that gives the Texans their biggest win of the season.
Week 7: At Pittsburgh Steelers
The Storyline: A Tough Road Test
Just like the Texans, the Pittsburgh Steelers entered 2013 with playoff aspirations, only to fall short. It's likely that both teams will view this October showdown in the Steel City as a "winnable" game, and with both teams featuring solid defenses, scoring will probably be at a premium.
The Steelers were hamstrung in free agency by a lack of salary-cap space, and the loss of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders hurts. Still, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has done less with more before, and Dick Lebeau's "Blitzburgh" defense will keep the Steelers in games.
The Score: Steelers 23, Texans 13
Heinz Field isn't the easiest place to play, with the Steelers holding an impressive 75-28-1 record in the 13 seasons the stadium has been open. Throw in a much more settled quarterback situation with Roethlisberger, and it's tough to see the Texans pulling this one out.
Week 8: At Tennessee Titans
The Storyline: Sorting Things Out
In some ways, traveling to Tennessee to face the Titans gives the Houston Texans one last chance to exorcise the ghosts of 2013.
After all, Nashville was where last year's disastrous season concluded with a 16-10 loss in Week 17. Both teams are undergoing plenty of changes in 2014, including new head coaches in O'Brien (Houston) and Ken Whisenhunt (Tennessee).
The Score: Texans 26, Titans 16
The Colts are unquestionably the class of the division, but after them sits three teams all jockeying for that second spot in the AFC South.
Last season's nightmare aside, the Texans are the most talented of those teams, and with the Titans making huge changes on defense, the Texans will be able to come to town and win a game that keeps a team in both the AFC South and Wild Card conversations.
Week 9: Vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Storyline: A Defensive Dilemma
Granted, 2013 may have been a dumpster fire in Houston, but the blame for that can't be laid at the feet of J.J. Watt and the defense.
Despite a number of injuries, the Texans still finished 2013 ranked a respectable seventh in the league defensively, and that top-10 defense will be tested by Chip Kelly, Nick Foles and the Eagles' uptempo attack.
It's Foles' team now in Philly, with the $64 question in the City of Brotherly Love being how he and the offense will adjust to the loss of wide receiver DeSean Jackson and the addition of running back Darren Sproles.
The Score: Eagles 23, Texans 20
It wouldn't be a huge stunner to see the Texans pull this game out, and the defense should be able to keep Houston in it.
With that said, the Eagles were a top-10 run defense in 2013, and the Texans may be hard-pressed to exploit the Eagles' weaknesses against the pass with Fitzpatrick or a rookie QB.
Week 10: Bye Week
If this scenario plays out, the Texans will be doing cartwheels.
Heading into a favorable Week 10 bye above .500 and sitting in first place in the division?
After two wins last year?
Record at Bye Week: 6-3
Week 11: At Cleveland Browns
The Storyline: Win the Games You Should
If there's a silver lining to last season's debacle, it's the last-place schedule for 2014 that comes with it. Five of the Texans games this year come against teams who went a staggering 19-61 in 2013, including a Week 11 trip to the shores of Lake Erie to face the Cleveland Browns.
This game will mark Cleveland running back Ben Tate's first game against his old team after joining the Browns in free agency. Assuming, of course, that Tate isn't hurt by then, which is actually a pretty good-sized assumption.
The Score: Texans 21, Browns 9
As bad as last year was, the Texans can take solace in the fact they aren't the Browns.
Two winning seasons in 15 years since rejoining the NFL in 1999. Another new head coach. Probably another new quarterback. And another year of the never-ending rebuild in Cleveland.
Week 12: Vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Storyline: Bengals Beatdown
In both 2011 and 2012, the Houston Texans bounced the Cincinnati Bengals from the postseason. The Bengals made it back to the playoffs last year, but after a third straight one-and-done, they are likely looking for a team to take out their disappointments on.
And it's still a formidable club. The Bengals' only big offseason loss was defensive end Michael Johnson, but youngsters Margus Hunt and Wallace Gilberry are waiting in the wings to pick up the slack.
The Score: Bengals 30, Texans 13
While the Texans have undergone a seismic shift over the past year or so, the Bengals are essentially the same team the Texans saw in those playoff games. That means plenty of players who remember their last meeting well, and it could portend a rough day at the office for the Texans.
Week 13: Vs. Tennessee Titans
The Storyline: Fitzpatrick's Revenge
The last time the Houston Texans won a football game, it was in September of 2013 against the Tennessee Titans at Reliant Stadium.
At least one of the Texans' new players will have extra impetus to get this victory, as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was let go by Tennessee in the offseason in favor of Charlie Whitehurst.
The Score: Texans 21, Titans 13
We don't yet know if Fitzpatrick will be starting for the Texans or holding a clipboard. What we do know is that the Titans have just as many questions on offense as Jacksonville and more questions on defense than any team in the division.
Look out folks, but at the three-quarters mark the Texans are 7-5.
Week 14: At Jacksonville Jaguars
The Storyline: The "Trap" That Isn't Really a Trap
The Jacksonville Jaguars may have spent most of the past several seasons as a league-wide punchline, but the Texans aren't laughing. In addition to sweeping the season series with Houston last year, the Jaguars also hold a 7-5 edge all time against Houston in Jacksonville.
If the Jaguars are going to build on last year's success, the defense may have to carry the team. As things stand right now, an offense featuring quarterback Chad Henne, running back Toby Gerhart and Justin "Suspension Pending at All Times" Blackmon isn't apt to terrify NFL defenses.
The Score: Jaguars 23, Texans 20
Depending on what happens in this May's NFL draft, this game could wind up being the second career meeting between a pair of rookie starters under center.
Regardless of whether that comes to pass, the Jaguars made real strides over the second half of last season, and the Texans have had their share of struggles on the Gulf Coast.
Much like their meeting in Florida last year, this one is apt to be an ugly affair, but Houston's past issues playing at Jacksonville are enough for the Jaguars to get the edge in a close one that deals a hammer blow to Houston's playoff hopes.
Week 15: At Indianapolis Colts
The Storyline: Long Live the Streak
The last time the Houston Texans played their division rivals in Indianapolis, the Colts pounded the Texans 25-3. Unfortunately for Houston, this isn't exactly news. Since the Texans joined the NFL in 2002, they have played the Colts 12 times in Indianapolis. They are 0-12 over that stretch.
The Colts upgraded the passing attack in the offseason with the addition of Hakeem Nicks, but the key to a potential Super Bowl run for the Colts may well lie in getting running back Trent Richardson going in 2014.
The Score: Colts 30, Texans 10
It would be nice to imagine the Texans pulling out their first road win against the Colts, and assuming their defense is healthy, the Texans should be able to keep the Colts in check on the ground.
But while the Texans were forced to rebuild this year, the defending division champs just reloaded. The Colts, like it or not, are the class of the South, and this doesn't look like the year the Texans reverse their fortunes in Indiana.
Week 16: Vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Storyline: Contenders or Pretenders?
It was the Baltimore Ravens who sent the Texans into their death spiral last year with a 30-9 beatdown in Baltimore in Week 3.
Both teams entered last year with high expectations, only to suffer through disappointing seasons that saw both clubs miss the postseason.
The Score: Ravens 26, Texans 17
A home win over the Super Bowl XLVII champions would be a huge boost for the Texans, especially with the team in the thick of a theoretical playoff hunt.
However, the Ravens had one of the better early offseasons in the AFC, adding some new weapons in the passing game.
One of those weapons is a familiar face for Texans fans, but watching tight end Owen Daniels score a touchdown in this game isn't going to be nearly as much fun as it once was, especially with the stakes so high this late in the season.
Week 17: Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Storyline: Payback
The low point of a season filled with low points last year for Texans fans was probably a 13-6 loss to the Jaguars at Reliant Stadium in November.
When the Texans once again fell to the Jaguars two weeks later, it was the final straw that led to the firing of Gary Kubiak as head coach.
The Jaguars, on the other hand, managed a .500 second half under Gus Bradley, but questions abound at quarterback, running back and wide receiver for the Jags.
The Score: Texans 24, Jaguars 14
The Jaguars are getting better under Bradley. However, the Jaguars have more questions than answers on offense, and Houston's veteran core probably hasn't forgotten the sting of dropping both games against the lowly Jags in 2013.
The Texans end the season on a high note, finishing over .500.
Final Record: 9-7
Frankly, this may be a conservative estimate. The schedule sets up about as well for the Texans as it possibly could. Only Houston's AFC South mates in Tennessee and Indy have an easier strength of schedule in 2014, and that's because they both play Houston twice.
If the Texans can split their games with the Colts and win one of their two NFC East road games, there's a very real chance that Houston will be in the thick of at least the Wild Card race in the AFC.
Of course, a 6-3 start would also be one of the biggest early stories of the 2014 NFL season, even if this scenario involves the Texans fading a bit down the stretch.
Much will depend on whoever winds up as the Texans' starting quarterback, but even with some bumps in the road in that regard, there's going to be big improvement from the Texans in 2014.
Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.