Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 6/25/12

Thus far, Texans 101 has analyzed the first half of the Houston Texans upcoming schedule for the 2012 season. Through eight games, we see the Texans at 7-1, their lone loss coming at home to the Green Bay Packers while taking down the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, and New York Jets. Following five home games in their first eight, the third quarter of games for the Texans features a much more daunting task, playing three of the four games from weeks 10-13 on the road in generally unfriendly confines. The Texans third quarter schedule looks like this:

Week 10: @ Chicago Bears – Sun. 11/11, 7:20 PM CST

Week 11: Jacksonville Jaguars – Sun. 11/18, 12:00 PM CST

Week 12: @ Detroit Lions – Thurs. 11/22, 11:30 AM CST

Week 13: @ Tennessee Titans – Sun. 12/2, 12:00 PM CST

The difficulty level among these teams remains relatively high coming off the tough contests in the second quarter. The aforementioned road-heavy schedule presents the Texans with an added challenge against four quality opponents.

Week 10: @ Chicago Bears

The Bears are a team currently flying a bit under the radar. If you asked more analyst, they would probably pick the Bears to finish third within their own division behind the Packers and Detroit Lions. Similar to the Texans in 2011, the Bears lost starting QB Jay Cutler after leading his team to a 7-3 start. Unlike the Texans, the Bears did not have a comparable backup and they limped to a 1-5 finish to conclude 2011 at 8-8. Cutler is healthy, as is RB Matt Forte who also missed the final four games of the season. The Bears also added stud WR Brandon Marshall who is working toward a sixth consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season.  

When the Bears are healthy, they are very similar to the Texans both on offense and defense. Offensively, the Bears have a dynamic running back and utilize play action passing. Their only huge hole on offense was at WR, now filled by acquiring Marshall. Defensively, the Bears are a perennial force led by linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Adding DE Julius Peppers a year ago made the defense also helped improve the defense. Overall, the defense is an aging unit, but can still get it done week to week.

The Texans offense will struggle to move the ball against the Bears on the ground, the fifth ranked unit against the run in 2011. This could limit play action opportunities and force the Texans into obvious passing situations. Defensively, the Texans should be able to hold their own with the Bears, especially if they can limit Forte. Cutler is known for holding onto the ball too long and behind a fairly porous O-line, Cutler can be sacked early and often. 

The ultimate deciding factor here is the game is played in Chicago in mid-November when the conditions begin to get cold. The Bears were 5-3 at home last season, with two of those three losses coming without Cutler and Forte during their late season collapse. The Texans are built as an all-weather team, but this will be their first contest in the cold and on the road. It should be a tight, low scoring game, but the Bears will pull this one out at home. 7-2.

// > Week 11: Jacksonville Jaguars In their second go around with the Jaguars, the Texans will this time welcome the Jaguars to Houston for their second and final AFC South battle. As outlined in our week 2 analysis, the Jaguars always play the Texans tough, however they simply don’t have enough to compete. By this time there should be a full-blown QB controversy between Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne and frequent talk of new owner Shahid Khan jockeying to move the franchise to Los Angeles.  The Jags defense will still be solid and RB Maurice Jones-Drew still figures to be one of the league’s best backs. But their lack of explosion in the passing game on offense will once again doom the Jaguars. With this game in Houston, expect a wider margin of victory for the Texans as they soundly handle the Jags. 8-2. Week 12: @ Detroit Lions The Texans will be making their Thanksgiving Day debut in week 12 against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. This is going to be another tough road matchup for the Texans. Coming off their first playoff appearance in what seems like centuries, the Lions are a very trendy playoff pick among football analysts. They sport one of the top QB-WR duos in the NFL with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, who led them to the fourth ranked passing attack in the NFL a year ago en route to that 10-6 wild card berth alluded to before.  I’m not as sold on this team as many others are. Yes, I believe they are a presence and should finish at least 8-8, but I think they have some glaring weaknesses that could ultimately be exposed by the Texans. Offensively, the Lions can’t run the football. That’s not a bad thing when your passing attack is as good as it is, but it also tips off the defense that your going to be passing more frequently. This provides the Texans’ and Wade Phillips’ superb pass rush the opportunity to know when passes are coming and blindly rush without having to worry as much about the run.  The major advantage the Texans have however is with the Lions’ defense. The Lions D is an athletic group with a terrible mean streak, led by NT Ndomukong Suh. But this unit has faced some off the field issues this offseason, which almost always carry over onto the field. The Lions just seem to happy to have a winner again that they seem to be sweeping these issues under the rug. Back to the X’s and O’s, the Lions defense is an overly aggressive unit that didn’t fare overly well against the run (23rd) or pass (22nd) in 2011. The Texans should have no problem playing their style of game, pounding the ball on the ground, hitting the Lions with play-actions passes, and chewing plenty of clock to keep the Lions’ passing attack off the field in and catch up mode.  On national TV, look for the Texans to pull the upset. If by this point the Texans don’t already have the entire nation’s attention and respect as a legit Super Bowl contender, they will after this win. 9-2. Week 13: @ Tennessee Titans A rematch of their week 4 contest has the Texans traveling to Tennessee to face the Titans. As stated with the week 4 breakdown, the Titans are the only real challengers within the AFC South for the Texans in 2012. Similar to the week 4 game, expect this one to be a hard fought divisional battle.  By this point in the season, I expect the Titans to be around .500, not quite within striking distance of the 9-2 Texans, but certainly playing for a wild card spot. With the game in Tennessee, I could see the Titans pulling one out from the Texans.  Yes, this goes against a lot of conventional wisdom. The Texans will have a week and a half to prepare for this game following the Thanksgiving game with the Lions. But there it’s always tough to get a divisional win on the road. Even more so, it’s almost impossible to sweep your division in a given season, going 6-0. The Titans were 5-3 at home in 2011 and will probably finish around the same mark in 2012.  It’s unreasonable to expect the Texans to run the table in the AFC South, even though it is a possibility. I see the Texans finishing 5-1 within the division, with this being their only blemish. 9-3. Recap: So through the first three quarters of the season I expect the Texans to be a strong 9-3 and jostling for position atop the AFC. The third quarter is a tough stretch for the Texans, having to play three on the road, which is why I see them going 2-2. Be sure to check back in tomorrow when Texans 101 posts the final quarter of the Texans’ 2012 schedule predictions. The beginning of the fourth quarter starts out tough, but then sees the Texans play three very winnable games to close out the regular season.  Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101. var switchTo5x=true; stLight.options({publisher:''});
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