With sports finally starting to be reintroduced into society, Last Word on Pro Football is breaking down the schedules of all 32 NFL teams. This series will consist of the most difficult (1-8) and easiest (9-16) games among each team’s 16-game slate. The focus for this article is the easiest games on the 2020 Houston Texans schedule.
Houston Texans Easiest Games in 2020
9. Week 12: at Detroit Lions
The return of quarterback Matthew Stafford and the addition of weapons like running back D’Andre Swift make the Lions dangerous offensively. This is a trap game for the Texans. In fact, it is scary. A Thanksgiving Day road trip to Detroit with short rest. The game is sandwiched between emotional home games between the Patriots and Colts. If defensive end J.J. Watt and the rest of the Texans are unable to get Stafford uncomfortable, the Lions will pick apart the defense. Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay is emerging as a special receiver on the outside, while second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson looking for his first breakout game. The good news is the Lions defense is not very good. Not only will there be an extra helping of mashed potatoes on this day, look for an extra helping of points scored in the Motor City.
10. Week 17: vs. Tennessee Titans
The possibility of both teams being in the playoff hunt, as well as the hunt for the AFC South divisional crown, makes this an intriguing final game. Sure, the Texans defense will be bit bruised, but so will Titans workhorse running back Derrick Henry. Which side of the ball wants it more? With the possibility of a postseason trip on the line, look for linebacker Whitney Mercilus to attack the tackling lanes with reckless abandonment. Perhaps at this point of the season, rookie linebacker Jonathan Greenard will be making an impact with a pass rush from the weak side. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson likes the spotlight. In fact, he craves it. If the postseason is on the line, look for Watson to put the team on his back and lead them to victory in this finale.
11. Week 14: at Chicago Bears
A date with the Chicago Bears in December brings with it a number of challenges for the Houston Texans. First of all, there are the elements. What will Sunday, December 13 at Soldier Field have in store for the Texans? It is sure to be rather miserable but how miserable. Second, is Bears All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack. He is a dynamic force on the Bears defense that is sure to cause havoc in the backfield. The final challenge for the Texans will be overlooking the Bears.
This game is sandwiched between tough AFC South showdowns with the Indianapolis Colts. However, on paper the Texans match up well with the Bears on both sides of the ball. Look for Houston to lean more on the rushing attack led by running backs David Johnson and Duke Johnson with the weather being a factor. Defensively, the Texans should be able to get pressure on the edge and disrupt the timing of Bears quarterback Nick Foles. This will be a bruising game that could come down to which team capitalizes on the last mistake.
12. Week 13: vs. Indianapolis Colts
This will be the first of two games against the Indianapolis Colts in the next three weeks for the Texans. Indianapolis has a new general behind center with quarterback Philip Rivers. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is still a factor on the field and can rack up chunks of yardage. Houston will need to find answers on how to slow down the Colts offense.
And that answer might be just to score more points than them. Both teams will have their eyes on the AFC South crown at this point and will hold nothing back. Similar to the Week 10 game in Cleveland, expect points in bunches. Look for Watson to take over the middle of the field with tight end Darren Fells. The former basketball star can be a matchup nightmare for smaller defensive backs, especially in the red zone. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks should be able to find space underneath and use his run after the catch ability to extend plays.
13. Week 11: vs. New England Patriots
Hard to believe that the New England Patriots would find themselves on the “easiest” part of anyone’s schedule. After dominating the league for a couple of decades, the band has broken up. Six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady relocated to Tampa Bay this off-season. However, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is not afraid of a challenge. Although it is still undecided who will be the signal-caller in New England, the Texans can still circle this game as a “must-win”. There is certainly a history of the Patriots ending the postseason aspirations for the Texans. But this is more than a revenge game for Houston. It is an opportunity for them to catapult their way into the final quarter of the season. This is a big game for Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to make a statement to his mentor in New England.
14. Week 9: at Jacksonville Jaguars
After the bye week, the Texans head east down I-10 to tangle with divisional foe the Jacksonville Jaguars. On paper, the Texans have the clear advantage when they have the ball. Watson has dismantled the Jaguars recently in America and England. This game should be the same result. Jacksonville’s defense is no longer an imposing obstacle. In fact they are young and inexperienced in the secondary. Also, the Texans ground attack will have the opportunity to exploit the Jaguars defensive front without defensive end/tackle Calais Campbell. Fells will be open in the middle of the field on third downs.
Therefore, if Watson can dodge Jaguars second-year defensive end Josh Allen enough times, he should be able to move the chains at will. This game could be one of the few chances the Texans defense has to shine in 2020. They face a porous Jaguars offensive line that will yield big plays defensively. The Jaguars are a nice way to ease back into things after a bye week.
15. Week 16: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
First overall pick, quarterback Joe Burrow, should be leading the Bengals into Houston. Make no mistake, the Bengals will be improved from their 2019 season. However, not by much.
With the postseason in their sights, the Texans should not much of a challenge from the Bengals. However, Bengals running back Joe Mixon will be a major concern. Despite being the focal point of the offense last two seasons, Mixon was able to gallop his way to over 1,100 yards on the ground. He is also a factor in the passing game and will be a solid outlet for the rookie quarterback. The Bengals added speedster Tee Higgins to a wide receiving corps that already has A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross III. Therefore, the Houston defensive secondary will need to rise to the test. Once again, Watson will not let the team succumb to defeat. His creativity and talent will propel them into a meaningful finale against Tennessee a week later.
16. Week 5: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
After a treacherous gauntlet of opponents during the first quarter of the season, the Texans welcome the Jaguars to NRG Stadium. This is a must-win game for Houston. The game can turn the season into promise or a complete disaster. Watson will not take kindly to the latter. Look for the offense to set the tone early and punish the Jaguars by running straight at them. Back to no-nonsense football. Just the way coach O’Brien likes. Eventually, Watson will begin to spread the ball all over the field to his various weapons. Meanwhile, the Texans’ defense will be hungry. Look for them to come after Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II from various angles in hopes to confuse the youngster. A win against the hapless Jaguars in Week 5 is just what the Texans will need to prepare for the remainder of the season.