If the Texans want to be taken seriously this year, then they will need to step up their game and win some tough games both on the road and at home. With a new defensive coordinator, added depth to the backfield and rookies who could make an immediate impact on defense, the Texans could poise themselves to make a run for the playoffs.
Before they can stake a claim for the AFC crown, however, they must first be able to overcome a grueling schedule. With a strength-of-schedule rating of 0.516, the Texans are tied with the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings for the 10th most difficult schedule in the league. Additionally, seven of their games will be against teams with a 2010 winning record with the Colts, Steelers, Ravens, Falcons and Saints all making it to the playoffs.
Houston is currently the only franchise in the NFL without a playoff berth. If they can overcome their schedule, and play solidly on both sides of the football, they will be able to silence their critics. The following is a look at the eight most important games on the Texans' 2011 schedule.