For better or for worse, the 2020 Texans Game will be Bill O’Brien’s team. If you ask most Texans fans, it’ll be for far worse. For the second straight offseason, O’Brien traded away a superstar talent and got pittance in return. This time around, it was DeAndre Hopkins, who was shipped to the Arizona Cardinals without Houston getting so much as a first-round pick back.
Keep in mind that Hopkins doesn’t turn 28 until June and is coming off his third straight first-team All-Pro selection. The math doesn’t add up and is especially frustrating for fans, given rumors of a rift that existed between Hopkins and O’Brien.
The Hopkins trade also appeared to alienate franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has posted a series of cryptic tweets since the move.
Suffice it to say, things are fine! Everything is fine! Totally and completely without a problem!
With the Texans’ schedule being released Thursday, let’s take a look at the odds of it staying that way.
Houston Texans Schedule
Week 1: vs Kansas City Chiefs (Thursday, Sept. 10 at 8:20 p.m. on NBC)
Week 2: vs Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, Sept. 20 at 4:25 p.m. on CBS)
Week 3: vs Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. on CBS)
Week 4: vs Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. on Fox)
Week 5: vs Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. on CBS)
Week 6: vs Tennessee Titans (Sunday, Oct. 18 at 1 p.m. on CBS)
Week 7: vs Green Bay Packers (Sunday, Oct. 25 at 1 p.m. on Fox)
Week 8: Bye
Week 9: vs Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. on CBS)
Week 10: vs Cleveland Browns (Sunday, Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. on Fox)
Week 11: vs New England Patriots (Sunday, Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. on CBS)
Week 12: vs Detroit Lions (Thursday, Nov. 26 at 12:30 p.m. on CBS)
Week 13: vs Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, Dec. 6 at 1 p.m. on CBS)
Week 14: vs Chicago Bears (Sunday, Dec. 13 at 1 p.m. on CBS)
Week 15: vs Indianapolis Colts (Saturday, Dec. 19 at 1 p.m. on TBD)
Week 16: vs Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, Dec. 27 at 1 p.m. on CBS)
Week 17: vs Tennessee Titans (Sunday, Jan. 3 at 1 p.m. on CBS)
The Texans are tied for the eighth-hardest schedule in the NFL based on their opponents’ 2019 record. Their AFC South common opponents include the NFC North and AFC North, which project as two of the NFL’s toughest divisions.
The AFC North should be vastly improved from 2019 with the Pittsburgh Steelers welcoming back Ben Roethlisberger, the Cleveland Browns firing Freddie Kitchens and the Cincinnati Bengals selecting Joe Burrow with the top overall pick. It’s possible, if not likely, that three playoff teams come out of that division.
The same could be said for the NFC North, which features two playoff teams from last season (Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings) and another (Chicago Bears) that wants to get back after a frustrating 2019.
It’s also worth noting that the Texans were actually outscored last season despite their 10-6 record. All of this screams “regression incoming.”
If you’re of the betting sort and can find odds on O’Brien being fired at some point during or after the 2020 season, take whatever number you can get now. It’s only going to lower next season. The Texans are a Watson injury away from reasonably being a bottom-five team.
Let’s play devil’s advocate and assume Watson stays healthy and O’Brien continues his trend of coaching Houston up toward at least mediocrity. The best avenue toward making the playoffs is winning within the division, something O’Brien has historically been able to pull off.
The Texans have gone at least 4-2 in the AFC South during five of O’Brien’s six seasons, which has helped propel his teams to four division championships despite never finishing any better than 11-5.
It feels far-fetched that any AFC South team would be better than 11-5 or 10-6 next season given the difficulty of the schedules and the lack of top-flight talent in the division. The Tennessee Titans are banking on Ryan Tannehill’s out-of-nowhere superstar turn sticking, the Indianapolis Colts are banking on 38-year-old Philip Rivers filling the Andrew Luck-sized hole in their quarterback depth chart, and the Jacksonville Jaguars might be the worst team in football.
The Texans’ best bet is to take care of business in the division and hope a 9-7 or 10-6 record is enough to squeak by.