HOUSTON, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 11: Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills #10 throws a pass against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
8-9 is possible, but is it practical?
(Photo above courtesy of Houston Texans)
Here are the games the Texans could/should win and why.
The season is now upon us, and it’s time for the annual time honored tradition of season predictions. What games can the Texans win, what games are they likely to lose, and where does it all end up?
Since the summer, I have been on record at ESPN 97.5 and on every show I have been a guest on that I believe the Texans are a 6-win team. I have also held the caveat that if things break right for them, they could potentially win as many as eight games this year, but that eight games would be the absolute maximum. Here’s how the Texans could potentially win eight games:
WEEK 1: vs COLTS: Last season the Texans got their heads handed to them by Indy twice. Lovie and Caserio haven’t forgotten. This game will be a huge test for the revamped defense, which gave up 174 yards on the ground (6.7 YPC) and two touchdowns in the first game vs Indy (a 31-3 L at NRG) and an even bigger 238 yards (5.0 YPC) and three touchdowns in a 31-0 shellacking on the road.
The Colts have lost 8 straight Week 1 games, including games against Detroit, Jacksonville, and the pre-Burrow Bengals. Armed with a better run game than the team has had in years, better passing weapons and a revamped offensive line, Davis Mills should be able to put up enough points for this game to be competitive. The Texans pass rush is improved, as is the secondary that gave up the 4th most YPC a season ago.
This is a game the Texans can steal at home against a team that often starts the season flat. Texans in a close one. 1-0.
WEEK 2: at BRONCOS: Mile High is always a tough place to play, and there are expectations for the Broncos now that they sold out to get Russell Wilson from the Seahawks.
The Broncos have a tough two-headed backfield with Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, and Wilson has made a career of stealing games late. This game feels like one the Texans lose after putting up a valiant fight against a veteran QB who wins the games he is supposed to. 1-1
WEEK 3: at BEARS: While Justin Fields may have been drafted higher than Davis Mills last year, Mills clearly outplayed his Chicago counterpart, especially in the back stretch of the season. The Texans have improved their running game and passing game, their offensive line and likely the defense as well. That cannot be said for the Bears.
The Bears offensive line was porous last season to say the least, and it likely won’t be much better this season. Their best receiving weapon may be their TE Cole Kmet. The wide receivers don’t scare anyone. David Montgomery will be the weakest RB the Texans will have faced to this point. The game may be at Soldier Field, but this is a game the Texans force turnovers and win. 2-1.
WEEK 4: vs CHARGERS: The Texans beat the Chargers handily last season in Week 16, despite it being a game that Los Angeles desperately needed to win in their drive for a playoff spot. The Chargers also played this game without star RB Austin Ekeler and WR Mike Williams.
The Chargers are considered a dark horse Super Bowl team by many in the national media. While that may be a stretch, they are better than the Texans right now, and there is the revenge factor. How well LA’s defense plays will likely determine final score, but I expect the Texans to fall to 2-2.
Week 5: at JAGUARS: The Texans absolutely owned the Jags last season. Trevor Lawrence was underwhelming behind a shaky offensive line. The run game sputtered, and the receivers were below expectation for Jacksonville. The head coach was a disaster of biblical proportions and run out of town, but GM Trent Baalke (who once sabotaged his own team in SF because he wanted to fire Jim Harbaugh) remains.
The Jags were bad on both sides of the ball, and there is only so much new HC Doug Peterson can do about it. Christian Kirk is now the new WR1 in town. Evan Engram, who dropped so many passes the Giants elected not to keep him, is the new starter at TE. The running game with Travis Etienne and James Robinson offers the most offensive promise for the Jags.
Until proven otherwise, the Jags are the bottom feeders in the division. Texans get the road win. 3-2.
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: at RAIDERS: The Raiders are going to be a dynamic offense this season, with Derek Carr reuniting with college teammate Davante Adams. Combine that duo with Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller and the Raiders passing game should be as strong as almost any in the league. They also still have Josh Jacobs in the backfield.
This will wind up being one of the toughest games the Texans play all season. Texans fall here to 3-3
Week 8: vs TITANS: Tennessee was the heavy in the AFC South last season, but they have taken a clear step backwards. The magic pixie dust that made Ryan Tannehill look like a top QB in 2020 has all but worn off, and their best receiver now plays in Philadelphia. Derrick Henry is still a beast, but the oft-injured Robert Woods is now WR1.
TE Austin Hooper can still be a mismatch for some teams, but the Texans will likely have Christian Harris to help cover him by this point in the season.
Tannehill had a 5-game stretch last year where he had 4 TD to 7 INT, including a hideous 4 INT game vs Houston. He threw 3 INT vs Bengals in the postseason. This is another game the Texans can steal, based on the fact Tannehill is bound to be inconsistent in at least one of the two games vs the Texans. Tennessee becomes a much more formidable team once they realize they should be playing Malik Willis. Texans steal another win. 4-3.
WEEK 9: vs EAGLES: This will be another very difficult game for the Texans, but for different reasons. Jalen Hurts is a far better player than most people give him credit for, and his mobility and elusiveness will be a problem for a young Texans defense. In his second full season a starter, I expect Hurts to take several steps forward this year. The aforementioned AJ Brown, formerly of the Titans, now joins DaVonte Smith and Dallas Goedert as passing game weapons.
The Eagles defense may also prove difficult for the Texans to contain. Philly has a legit shot to unseat the Cowboys in the NFC East. This will be a really tough matchup for Houston and a tough QB to prepare for on a short week, as this Thursday Night Football game marks the Texans lone appearance in prime time this season. They will fall here. 4-4
WEEK 10: at GIANTS: The Giants are essentially the Texans. A team whose ownership was getting in the way, run by a poor GM and a poor HC. A team bereft of talent on both sides. A team with a poor offensive line and no run game. A team that may have finally figured out the GM/HC dynamic and by all accounts had a strong 2022 draft.
All that said, Daniel Jones has been more down than up in his NFL career, not that it has necessarily been his fault. You could say the cards were stacked against him, as some feel they may be with Davis Mills. However, right now, Davis Mills is a better QB than Daniel Jones, and Jones puts the ball on the carpet entirely too much. It’s completely unknown what Saquon Barkley is at this point, or if he will even be healthy enough to play in this game given his track record. The Giants lost some veteran leadership on defense as well.
This is a game the Texans can go to the swamps of Jersey and come home with a victory. 5-4.
WEEK 11: vs COMMANDERS: The Washington defense will fight hard, but Carson Wentz is the QB, and Antonio Gibson is not Jonathan Taylor. Terry McLaurin is a dynamic receiver, but Wentz will find a way to choke off games on the road. There may be very little difference right now between Wentz and backup Taylor Heinicke.
This will likely be a close, hard-fought game, but ultimately, I think Texans prevail at home on the back of a key Carson Wentz flub up. 6-4
WEEK 12: at DOLPHINS: Miami is the second-best team in the AFC East. The offense should be a strong point with Tyreek Hill now as WR1, allowing Jaylen Waddle to become WR2 and see fewer double-teams. Tua Tagovailoa is developing as a QB, and this is possibly a make-or-break year for him in terms of the team believing he is their true long-term answer at quarterback.
Tua has taken a lot of grief, particularly for his durability, but I think he will have a solid season. Miami’s defense is excellent and will likely steal a couple turnovers in this game. Texans go down in Miami, 6-5.
WEEK 13: vs BROWNS: If there is any game circled with a red marker on the Texans schedule, it’s this one. This will likely be Deshaun Watson’s first game of the season coming off his 11-game suspension. You know the Texans would love to stick it to Watson as hard as possible after all the drama he caused the franchise.
Cleveland’s rushing attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is still elite level. Amari Cooper is now WR1 and is still a top receiver. The inconsistent David Njoku is TE1. The Browns defense can still get after the QB with Myles Garrett leading the charge.
However, I cannot see Watson being sharp in his first game back, no matter how bad he wants to win. This is the ultimate revenge game for the Texans, and the building should be louder than it has been in several seasons. Texans find a way to get the victory and send Watson back to Cleveland with his tail between his legs. 7-5.
WEEK 14: at COWBOYS: This should be a game the Cowboys need in their fight with the Eagles for the top of the NFC East. CeeDee Lamb is now the focal point of the passing game with Amari Cooper in Cleveland. Michael Gallup should be back from injury, presuming he doesn’t get hurt again. The two headed rush attack of Zeke Elliott and Tony Pollard will be interesting to see as the Cowboys must adapt to life without Tyron Smith, and they haven’t succeeded at that in recent years.
The Cowboys defense is still strong and with the game in Jerry World, I expect the Cowboys to win a game that is likely a must win for them in their division race. 7-6
WEEK 15: vs CHIEFS: Kansas City no longer has Tyreek Hill to scare the hell out of defensive coordinators, but don’t let that make you think they are not still a top team. Patrick Mahomes is still a wizard, Travis Kelce is still basically uncoverable, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are solid veteran WRs, and rookie Skyy Moore has legit talent.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and rookie Isiah Pacheco are a very talented and intriguing backfield combo. The Chiefs will have the most players with hyphenated last names and the most points in this game at the end. 7-7.
WEEK 16: at TITANS: I gave the Texans the game vs Tennessee at NRG, I won’t be doing the same for them at Nissan Stadium.
The Titans should be looking for blood after losing the first game of this series in Houston, and they will be good enough and desperate enough to get it in a game that should have big implications for the AFC South dogfight between Tennessee and Indy. 7-8
WEEK 17: vs JAGUARS: Until proven otherwise, the Jags are the dregs of the division. Texans should beat them at home. 8-8
WEEK 18: at COLTS: Last season, the Colts needed a victory against the lowly Jags on the road to go to the postseason. Jacksonville had 2 wins entering that game. We all know how that turned out, since Carson Wentz is now in Washington, Jim Irsay publicly says it was the worst trade in franchise history, and the Colts traded for an aging Matt Ryan to take the reins instead,
I gave the Texans the win vs Indy Week 1 based on Indy’s track record of losing Week 1 games. After last season, there is no way they lose a possible play-in game in back-to-back years, especially at home. 8-9.
8-9 would be an incredible season for the Texans following 4-13, I also think it requires everything to go right. Davis Mills must take a few more steps forward and get the organization to believe in him as their franchise QB. Dameon Pierce must stay healthy and show he is a force with the football over the course of the season. Nico Collins must take steps forward. OJ Howard must be more like the player he was his first 2 seasons than the one he was a year ago. The offensive line must be improved, and the defense must be significantly improved.
As a team with as many young starters as the Texans will have, it is likely they will lose a game here or there that they could have won. The first game of the year vs Indy, Week 8 vs Titans and Week 13 vs Browns are all games that the Texans could find ways to lose. Losing all those games would take them from 8-9 to 5-12. I think it’s more realistic that they get at least one of those games and win up 6-11.
6-11 is still an improvement of 2 wins from a year ago and has them heading the right direction as they head to 2023 with potentially $119M in cap space and 5 picks in the first 3 rounds of the 2023 draft.
Final prediction: 6-11, 3rd place in AFC South.