Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 6/29/12

Up to this point, Texans 101 has weighed in on the first twelve games of the Houston Texans’ upcoming season. Through analysis and prediction, the Texans sit at 9-3 with four games remaining on the schedule. Heading into the fourth quarter of their schedule, the Texans will be finishing up the toughest stretch of their schedule, four road games in five weeks that include tough tests against the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, and Tennessee Titans. The Texans final four games of the 2012 season are as follows:

Week 14: @ New England Patriots – Mon. 12/10, 7:30 PM CST

Week 15: Indianapolis Colts – Sun. 12/16, 12:00 PM CST

Week 16: Minnesota Vikings – Sun. 12/23, 12:00 PM CST

Week 17: @ Indianapolis Colts – Sun. 12/30, 12:00 PM CST

After a tough Monday Night Football game in Foxboro, the Texans wrap up their season with three games against two of the three worst teams in football in 2011. 

 

Week 14: @ New England Patriots

One has to imagine that when the schedule makers planned this game they figured there could be a lot on the line, and they are probably going to be right. When the Texans travel to New England to face the Patriots at this point in the season there is a strong likelihood they’ll be battling for the top seed in the AFC as both teams should roughly have the same record. 

The defending AFC champs are a tough matchup for the Texans, and really for most of the NFL. The blueprint to beat the Patriots has been laid out by the New York Giants twice now in their two Super Bowl meetings. If a team can keep the Patriots offense off the field, then pressure QB Tom Brady while only sending four pass rushers after controlling the clock on offense and finishing drives with TDs, then the Patriots can be beat.

Luckily for the Texans, they can rush the passer with four, chew up a lot of clock on offense, and finish drives with touchdowns. The key is to force the Patriots into obvious passing situations, as the Giants have done, so that your pass rushers can pin their ears back and go after Brady with full force. The Texans will have to be careful though, for any missed blitz can be disastrous as the Patriots have a clear advantage on the outside with all their weapons. The Texans should be able to keep the Patriots offense in relative check, not allowing more than 30 points, which is a must when trying to beat the Patriots. 

The Texans should be able to run the ball against the Patriots defense. They were a middle of the pack unit in 2011 versus the run, but that’s probably a bit inflated because most teams were forced to throw against the Patriot defense in an attempt to keep up with the offense. The Pats made several upgrades to their defense, including using their first six draft picks on the defensive side of the ball a la the Texans in the 2011 draft. Overall, the defensive unit should be better for the Patriots in 2012.

When it comes down to it, the Texans need to avoid falling behind at all costs, forcing them to throw the football to keep up with the Patriots’ offense. The Texans could be a good matchup for the Patriots, but if they can’t keep the pace of the game in their favor the Texans are doomed. With the game being played in Foxboro on a Monday night, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Texans come out on top, even if they’ll be able to keep it close. Bill Belichick and co. will prove why they’ve been the dominant franchise in the NFL the for the past decade. 9-4.

 

Week 15: Indianapolis Colts

Coming off their toughest stretch of the season (and subsequently going 2-3 in their last five games), the Texans will return home for the first of three very winnable games. They’ll face the rebuilding Colts in week 15, who have already handed the reigns to rookie QB Andrew Luck. 

Colts fans are fairly realistic in that they realize they don’t have a contender this season and may not for a few years as this roster is in complete overhaul mode. They’ve still got some aging stars in WR Reggie Wayne, OLB Dwight Freeney, and DE Robert Mathis, but otherwise the Colts are basically starting from scratch across the board. They’ve got a new coaching staff that is bringing in new offensive and defensive schemes (moving to the 3-4). 2012 will truly be a rebuilding year in every sense of the phrase for the Colts.

There is always the chance that Luck has this team playing well and figuring it out this late in the season, but how good is unknown and in even the most optimistic of cases probably wont be enough to take down the Texans. The Colts and Texans always play each other tough, but after eight Peyton Manning-led seasons of bullying the Texans, it’s Houston’s turn to pick on the Colts for several years to come. 10-4.

 

Week 16: Minnesota Vikings

It’s hard to believe that just three seasons ago the Vikings were playing in the NFC Championship game and were minutes away from heading to the Super Bowl. Their roster got old in a hurry, compiled with injuries to turn the Vikings into another rebuilding outfit. 

There isn’t much to say about this matchup, the Texans are far superior across the board at all positions. The Vikings have their bright spots, DE Jared Allen fell just .5 sacks short of setting the NFL single season record in 2011 and RB Adrian Peterson remains one of the game’s top backs. Unfortunately for the Vikings, Peterson suffered a torn ACL near the end of last season and might not be 100% by the start of the season (even though he looks freakishly good rehabbing right now). Peterson should however be back at full strength by the time the Vikings travel to Houston. 

Past Allen and Peterson, this is another team in full rebuilding. Second year QB Christian Ponder could pan out to be a decent NFL quarterback, but he’s got a long way to go. They’ve got an aging defense and offensive line and not many weapons on the outside to help Ponder. The only scenario in which the Vikings have a chance is if the Texans are no longer playing for anything and decide to rest starters. Otherwise, this should be a fairly lopsided contest. 11-4.

 

Week 17: @ Indianapolis Colts

As was just outlined a few paragraphs above, the Colts aren’t really in a position right now to compete with the Texans. But, similar to the Vikings game, there is a very real scenario by week 17 in which the Texans are no longer playing for anything. Assuming the Texans do lose to the Patriots on MNF in week 14, it’s reasonable to think the Texans could be locked into the two seed having already been crowned AFC South champions. There isn’t a powerhouse team in the AFC West to contend with and the battle in the AFC North between the aging (and declining) Pittsburgh Steelers, aging (and declining) Baltimore Ravens, and the upstart Cincinnati Bengals could leave them all with balanced winning records but none within the possible 11-12 win range. 

Given that scenario, the Texans would have nothing to play for and thus could rest starters and basically throw the Colts a game. But we will assume the Texans will still have something to play for. The Colts did steal one from the Texans late last season, but don’t expect that to happen two years in a row. 12-4.

 

Recap:

So there you have it, Texans 101 has the Texans finishing the 2012 regular season 12-4 and with the second seed in the AFC heading into the playoffs. Sure this is optimistic, but it’s certainly reasonable and realistic. The true sign of how good the Texans are will be the five game stretch in which they play four on the road between weeks 10-14. I have them going 2-3 during that period of time, but they could realistically win between 1-3 of those games. 

Fans should keep in mind that there are many undeterminable factors that don’t play into these predictions. As I’ve said in previous articles, Texans fans should expect their team to win between 10-12 games, but there are always circumstances like injuries and lack of development from guys that will now be starting that could seriously derail the Texans season and send them to an 8-8 type of year (which by the way could still be enough to win the AFC South). 

But as we stand here now in late June, the Texans look to be the class of the AFC South and primed for serious contention with the AFC for a trip to the Super Bowl.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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