Feb 2, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; A detail shot of a Houston Texans helmet prior to a press conference introducing Demeco Ryans as head coach at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
John McClain: Ryans makes NRG Stadium debut against Indianapolis after Texans open season at Baltimore
The NFL didn’t do the Texans any favors Thursday night when the 2023 schedule was released. Rather than give DeMeco Ryans a home game in his debut as their new coach, the league is sending the Texans on the road Sept. 10 to play the Ravens and newly rich quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Ryans, quarterback C.J. Stroud, and defensive end Will Anderson Jr. will have to wait a week to make their debuts at NRG Stadium. They’ll host the Colts on Sept. 17. If all goes according to plan, that game will feature Stroud and another rookie quarterback, Anthony Richardson, the second and fourth overall picks in the draft.
In 2022, the Texans finished 3-13-1, including 3-2-1 in the AFC South. They tied the Colts in the first game and won the second game at Indianapolis, a victory that cost them the first pick in the draft.
More evidence of the league’s disrespect for the Texans – and that can be expected when you’ve compiled only 11 victories over three seasons and have so many off-the-field issues – they have no nationally televised games and only one at 3:05 p.m. – a home game Dec. 3 against Denver. They also are the only AFC South team to not play a game in Europe.
Technically, the Texans could end up with one nationally televised game. The last game at Indianapolis has a time and date to be determined. That means they could be scheduled for national television, but considering they were the second- and fourth-worst teams in the NFL last season and will be starting rookie quarterbacks, that’s highly unlikely.
The schedule-makers couldn’t have selected a worse place for Ryans’ first game. He couldn’t care less about what happened before he was hired, of course, but the fact remains the Texans are 0-6 at Baltimore and 2-10 overall against the Ravens, including a playoff loss after the 2011 season.
In their two games against Jackson, who signed a five-year, $260 million contract in April, the Texans lost 41-7 in 2019 and 33-16 in 2020. In that 41-7 defeat at Baltimore – a season in which the Texans won their last AFC South title and beat Buffalo in a wild card game — Jackson threw four touchdown passes without an interception and finished with a 139.2 rating.
At least the NFL didn’t make the Texans open on the road against Joe Burrow and the Bengals (Nov. 12) or Aaron Rodgers and the Jets (Dec. 10).
There’s a lot of intrigue about some Texans’ games. On Oct. 29 at Carolina, Stroud and Bryce Young, the first overall pick, will meet for the first time. Fans will be interested in their Christmas Eve game because Deshaun Watson and the Browns return to NRG Stadium. After he was traded to Cleveland and served his 11-game suspension last year, Watson made his debut in a 27-14 victory over the Texans in his former home stadium.
On Oct. 1, the Texans play the Steelers at NRG Stadium. That would be the ideal game for J.J. Watt to be inducted as the third member of their Ring of Honor with Bob McNair and Andre Johnson. Watt’s younger brother, T.J., stars for Pittsburgh. His other younger brother, Derek, is a free agent who played for the Steelers for the last three seasons.
By the time the Texans play the Titans in December – the 12th at Tennessee and the 31st in Houston – Young could be going against another rookie quarterback, Will Levis, drafted in the second round with the 33rd overall pick. If the Titans aren’t in the playoff race or veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill is injured, Levis is supposed to be promoted into the starting lineup at some point in his first season.
Unlike 2022 when they played the AFC West and NFC East, the schedule should be easier against the AFC North and NFC South. The Texans, who lost six one-score games last season by an average of 5.8 points, have the third-easiest schedule in the NFL. Their opponents finished with a .431 winning percentage last season behind Atlanta (. 417) and New Orleans (. 427).
Speaking of the Saints, the Texans play them Oct. 15 at NRG Stadium and also close preseason at New Orleans on Aug. 25. The first two preseason games – dates and times to be determined – are visiting New England and hosting Miami.
The Texans start the season with two of three games on the road. After hosting Indianapolis, they travel to Jacksonville. Last season, they split the series with the Jaguars, who won the division for the first time since 2017. They also split with Tennessee and were 1-0-1 against the Colts.
The schedule-makers did do something positive for the Texans. They play three consecutive games at home against the Cardinals (Nov. 19), Jaguars (Nov. 26), and the Broncos on the first Sunday of December. They also have two of their last three games at home against the Browns and Titans.
If the Texans show enough improvement to earn some respect in Ryans’ first season, perhaps the league will give them a prime-time game next year and maybe feel good enough to send them to Europe for the first time since 2019 when they obliterated the Jaguars in London.
(John McClain writes four columns a week for GallerySports.com. He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on SportsRadio610.com).