Week 3 of the NFL Preseason is upon us already! 2 weeks before we kick off the 100th NFL season and there are so many story lines still ongoing: the Ezekiel Elliott/Melvin Gordon holdouts, Antonio Brown’s bizarre helmet/foot situation, camp battles and more contract situations. It’s late August and we know football is absolutely back. So now it’s time to start looking at match ups as we creep closer to Packers at Bears. Today we are going to look at the Houston Texans’ toughest out of division match ups and see who stands in Deshaun Watson and company’s way of playoff contention. With a tough opening game on Monday Night Football on ESPN on September 9th against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, what seems like an annual game against the New England Patriots, and a draft class game against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs the Houston Texans are in for a tough season out of the AFC South.
#5 Atlanta Falcons
Week 5 Sunday, October 6th (FOX)
NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
The first of the NFC South match ups on today’s list is the Atlanta Falcons. After an amazing Super Bowl run 3 seasons ago that led to the biggest meltdown in Super Bowl history in blowing the 28-3 lead, the Falcons seem to be on the cusp again. In the 2018 draft they gave Julio Jones another running mate on the opposite side on the field in Calvin Ridley, the Falcons were ready to get back to the promised land but after losing both starting safeties and Devanta Freeman to injuries early in the season where it was hard to recover despite Matt Ryan’s 35 touchdowns to 7 picks on the season. Matt Ryan vs Deshaun Watson, Deandre Hopkins vs Julio Jones. What a great battle we will have between two of the NFL’s best QB/WR duos in what might be a a high scoring explosive battle that could go down to the wire. In the all-time series between Atlanta and Houston it is an even split at 2-2 with the home team winning. Houston has never won in Atlanta and Atlanta has never won in Houston(Super Bowl 51 also) so will history repeat itself and keep the trend or do the Dirty Birds buck the trend and walk out of Space City with the W? With it being an early bout, injuries shouldn’t be a major factor into the outcome of the game so we will be in for a great treat in October.
#4 Los Angeles Chargers
Week 3 Sunday, September 22nd (CBS)
Rokit Field at Dignity Health Sports Park, Carson, California
A tough outing for the Houston Texans will also be the first of two AFC West opponents on this list. History isn’t on Houston’s side against the Chargers. This will be the first bout against the team as the Los Angeles Chargers but I don’t think a name change will change history. The Chargers own a 5-1 record against the Texans all-time and that’s a hard one to completely overcome. The last match between these two was the first of Houston’s two wins before dropping the final 14 games in one of the ugliest seasons in the Texan’s young history. While the Chargers will be without star second-year safety Derwin James, the Bolt’s defense will give Deshaun Watson a lot of trouble behind that still shaky offensive line with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram coming after his head. Philip Rivers is still looking for the coveted Lombardy Trophy to cap off an excellent NFL career and after getting rather embarrassed in the 2018 AFC Divisional Round against the New England Patriots again, he will be looking to help lead the Chargers to a similar 12-4 2018 record or better which will be a strong clash of wills between he and Deshaun Watson, who got bounced by Andrew Luck’s Colts in the Wild Card round last season, who is looking to help lead the Texans to a franchise first AFC Championship game and the week 3 match up against Los Angeles will show the growth of Watson and company.
#3 New Orleans Saints
Week 1, September 9th (ESPN)
Mercedes-Benz SuperDome, New Orleans, Louisiana
How many more gut-wrenching losses can Drew Brees endure? Being on the wrong side of the Minneapolis Miracle in the 2017 NFC Divisional Round and the infamous no call against the Los Angeles Rams that led to an overtime loss that sent Sean McVay, Jared Goff, and the Rams to Atlanta has to be aging him. But life moves on, can’t be focused on the results of last season. And this brings us to opening night on Monday Night Football against the Houston Texans. Like the Atlanta Falcons, the Saints and Texans have split their 4 regular season games at 2-2 and the home team always pulling out the win. Something about these Texans versus NFC South games. The Saints want to get back to the Super Bowl and let Drew Brees go out on top like many previous legends (Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis). To start that, they have a strong opening game against a very hungry Houston Texans team trying to get a jump start and not start 0-3 like they did last season. Another top tier QB/WR duo match up with Brees/Thomas and Watson/Hopkins will make this a defensive battle to the end. After setting many records and being neck-and-neck with Patrick Mahomes for the MVP race a season ago, the Saints can’t afford a loss to start their season or they might not make the playoffs again. If the Texans can pull off what many would consider an upset opening night win, it could set a marvelous tone going into the 2019 season.
#2 Kansas City Chiefs
Week 6, October 13th (CBS)
NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
The number 10 and 12 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft go head-to-head in what could end up as the new Brady-vs-Manning in Mahomes-vs-Watson. All 3 2017 1st round quarterbacks made the 2018 playoffs, with Mahomes and the Chiefs getting the closest to the Spuer Bowl with an overtime loss against eventual Super Bowl 53 winner New England Patriots. After an incredible 1st year of starting with Mahomes throwing 50 touchdowns, 12 picks, and 5097 yard it’ll be must-see TV to see if he can replicate, exceed, or dip from those numbers. With 2 losses in tough games to New England, it’ll be interesting to see how Kansas City responds in their own heartbreaking overtime championship game loss. Being a young team that didn’t loss much on the offensive side of the ball, the offensive production shouldn’t dip too much but the Chief’s biggest question mark will be defense and how they will stack up. With tough outings against division rival Los Angeles Chargers, a week 14 rematch against the Patriots, and tough games with the Vikings and Bears it’ll be interesting to see where Kansas City lands in the standings as they have a very strong schedule and the Texans will be a strong first half of season contest between two of the quarterbacks with the brightest futures in the NFL.
#1 New England Patriots
Week 13, December 1st (NBC)
NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
Probably a top choice on most lists like this, the 6-time Super Bowl Champions have been a dominant thorn in the Houston Texan’s side since the first match up in 2003. Including 2 playoff games, the New England Patriots own a 10-1 record against the Texans all-time and that stings. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien has yet to best his former team despite the last two seasons getting as close as possible. The ultimate challenge is besting the best quarterback and coach in NFL history. Deshaun Watson said after he was drafted he his goal was to try and get one more ring than Tom Brady, which is a great goal to set but that would require the Texans to win 7 Super Bowls in the duration of Watson’s career. With an aging Tom Brady and a late season match up, a chance to finally overcome the gold standard in the NFL should have the Texans fired up instead of having the Patriots in the early goings like they’ve had in the past two seasons. As the Patriots aim for a 10th Super Bowl appearance in the Brady Era and a record 7th win, look for the Houston Texans to give them hell and do their best to stop them in their pursuit.