Bad news for the Houston Texans this season: They will not be playing in the Super Bowl. That's if you go off the previous nine teams to appear on the excellent HBO show "Hard Knocks." Last week Houston was announced as this year's team, and no club on the show has made it to the Super Bowl. The Jets did reach an AFC title game one season they were on the show. I think Houston's a solid choice because J.J. Watt is a pretty entertaining guy on social media, not to mention a total freak of a defensive player. Plus, you have the team's quarterback battle in camp between Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer.
Houston was 5-3 at home last season, 4-4 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." The Texans' 2015 home schedule ranks as the third-easiest in the NFL with an opponents' 2014 winning percentage of .391. It's also the easiest in the AFC South. Obviously getting to host Jacksonville and Tennessee helps quite a bit.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 13 -- Chiefs (+1.5): Houston hasn't lost a home opener since falling to the Jets 24-7 on Sept. 13, 2009. Last year the Texans beat Washington 17-6 -- bit of foreshadowing in that one as 2014 No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney was hurt in the game. That would be the story of his brief season. Houston last faced Kansas City in Week 7 2013, losing 17-16 in Arrowhead when Case Keenum made his first NFL start at quarterback from Houston. Key trend: Texans are 4-6 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC West.
Sept. 27 -- Buccaneers (+6.5): This follows a Week 2 trip to Carolina for Houston, while Tampa Bay is in New Orleans the previous Sunday. Having to look across the line at the monstrous Watt will be quite a welcome to the NFL moment for Bucs rookie QB Jameis Winston. Houston hasn't played Tampa since 2011, and the Bucs haven't visited since '07. Key trend: Texans 5-1 ATS in six home games vs. NFC South.
Oct. 8 -- Colts (pick'em): This is a Thursday night home game Houston has to win to have a shot at dethroning Indianapolis in the AFC South. The Colts host Jacksonville the previous Sunday, and Houston is in Atlanta. The Texans lost 33-28 at home to Indianapolis in Week 6 last season, also on a Thursday. Arian Foster ran 20 times for 109 yards and two scores. The Texans had the ball for only 23:11. Houston all-time leading receiver Andre Johnson is now with the Colts. Key trend: Texans 6-4 ATS in past 10 at home in series.
Nov. 1 -- Titans (+7): Tennessee comes off a home game vs. Atlanta, while Houston is in Miami in Week 7. The Texans' bye week follows this. In Week 13 last year, the Texans beat the visiting Titans 45-21. Ryan Fitzpatrick (now with the Jets) had one of the most unlikely fantasy football days in recent history by throwing for 358 yards and a franchise-record six touchdowns. DeAndre Hopkins had a career-best 238 yards receiving and two scores. All Watt did was catch a short TD pass, have two sacks and recover a fumble. Key trend: Texans 3-7 ATS in past 10 at home as a favorite vs. any team of at least 7 points.
Nov. 22 -- Jets (+5): Short week for Houston as it's in Cincinnati on Monday night in Week 10. The Jets will have extra time to prepare as they host Buffalo on Thursday night in Week 10. It's the first meeting between the teams since a 23-17 Houston win at the Jets in October 2012. Key trend: Texans 5-5 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC East.
Nov. 29 -- Saints (+2): New Orleans comes off its bye week. If I'm Houston, I'm calling the Saints maybe after this season if neither Mallett nor Hoyer works out and see if I can get Brees, who is a Texas native. The Saints have played at Houston just once: in 2007. Key trend: Texans 2-8 ATS in past 10 at home vs. all NFC teams.
Dec. 13 -- Patriots (-1.5): New England is off a home game with Philadelphia, while Houston is in Buffalo in Week 13. Of course, Mallett and Hoyer both were former backups to the Patriots' Tom Brady. Houston coach Bill O'Brien used to be on Bill Belichick's staff there. Houston added former Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork this offseason. The teams last played Week 13 in 2013, and the visiting Patriots won 34-31, the Texans' 10th straight loss at the time. The Texans led 17-7 at halftime. Key trend: Texans 4-6 ATS in past 10 at home as a dog.
Jan. 3 -- Jaguars (TBA): As usual, no lines for the Week 17 game with too many potential intangibles on the final Sunday of the season. Jacksonville is off a home game with New Orleans, while Houston is in Nashville in Week 16. The Texans beat the visiting Jaguars 23-17 to close last season but just miss out on the playoffs at 9-7. Watt had three sacks, a safety and a forced fumble to cinch his second NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. He finished the season with 20.5 sacks, the first player in NFL history with two seasons with 20 or more sacks. Key trend: Texans 6-4 ATS in past 10 at home in series.
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