Texans Release 2012 Schedule: Five Early Thoughts
That's the key item to consider when evaluating an NFL schedule release. Ranking schedules based on prior-year records, as some media outlets did this week in proclaiming an "easy" slate for the Texans, can be misleading.
For example, Denver -- scheduled to host the Texans in Week 3 -- is judged by that metric as an 8-8 team, based on their record with Tim Tebow. They're likely a much more difficult opponent, however, with a healthy Peyton Manning.
The same could be said of the Chicago Bears, whom the Texans visit in Week 10 on Sunday Night Football. The Bears finished 8-8, but that's not a predictive record considering the fluke injury to quarterback Jay Cutler. They were 7-3 before Cutler went down.
On the other hand, there is something to be said for timing. For example, a late bye week (Nov. 20) in 2011 proved very helpful to a Texan group that was slammed with injuries in the middle part of the season.
And in 2009, it helped the Texans greatly to play New England in Week 17 when the Patriots had already clinched their division, allowing them to rest Tom Brady for large parts of the game.
Here are five things I took away from the Texans' schedule release on Tuesday night.
5) No luck with Luck
With rookie quarterbacks, it can pay to play them early -- before they adjust to the speed of the NFL game. Assuming the Colts draft Andrew Luck and start him immediately, the Texans won't have that luxury, facing Luck in Week 15 (December 16) and Week 17 (December 30). The Texans, of course, should have the talent to beat the rebuilding Colts regardless. But they'll have to wait until the last week of the year to have their shot at a first-ever win in Indianapolis.
4) Primetime darlings
The league seems to believe the Texans have staying power among the elite, scheduling them for the maximum of five nationally televised games. That includes a Thanksgiving Day (November 22) matchup at Detroit. Unfortunately for the Texans, only one of those five games is in Houston. Marquee games tend to bring out the best in home crowds, so the Texans will face intimidating atmospheres in at least four of their eight road contests.
3.) Meat in the middle
The strength of the Texans' schedule comes from Week 3 through Week 14. In those 11 games, the Texans will face only two teams that had losing records in 2011 -- Buffalo on November 4 and Jacksonville on November 18. Everyone else was at .500 or better last season. Moreover, the stretch culminates with a nasty three-game road trip, starting with the Lions on Thanksgiving, moving on to Tennessee and finishing with a December 10 Monday Night Football tilt in New England.