It really was shocking how quickly the wheels fell off in Houston. The team entered 2013 as a two-time AFC South champion and behind only Denver and New England among the expected AFC pecking order. Things started fine, although if you looked deeper the problems were there. Houston opened the season with a thrilling 31-28 win at San Diego, rallying from a 21-point second-half deficit. The next week, the Texans were cardiac kids again, beating visiting Tennessee 30-24 in overtime. This time, Houston had to rally from an 8-point hole with under two minutes left in regulation.
That would be the last Houston win of the season and the beginning of the end for former franchise QB Matt Schaub. Against the Titans, Schaub threw a pick that was returned for a score. That would happen in each of the next three games as well. He stayed the starter for one more game after that streak but was ineffective and got hurt against St. Louis. The Texans used a musical chairs of T.J. Yates, Case Keenum and even Schaub again the rest of the way. Houston was largely competitive in its season-ending 14-game losing streak but that's little solace. Coach Gary Kubiak was dumped after loss No. 11.
With Arian Foster limited to eight games due to injury, the only positives on offense were Andre Johnson catching 109 passes for 1,407 yards and rookie DeAndre Hopkins (52 catches, 802 yards) perhaps emerging as a future star himself. Defensively, Houston wasn't nearly as good as in 2012. J.J. Watt wasn't as dominant but still very good with 10.5 sacks.
Key Offseason Moves
Houston was able to lure highly regarded Bill O'Brien from Penn State to replace Kubiak as head coach. O'Brien worked wonders at PSU considering the circumstances and was a former offensive coordinator of the Patriots. He's considered a quarterback guy and that's definitely a position of need on this team. It's not expected that Houston will take one with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, however.
The Texans officially cut bait with Schaub. They would have released him, but Oakland coughed up a late-round '14 pick for Schuab. Houston also lost a handful of contributors to free agency, mainly defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, defensive end Antonio Smith, safety Danieal Manning, running back Ben Tate (team-leading 771 yards rushing), and tight end Owen Daniels (who used to be good but couldn't stay healthy). Houston's biggest signings likely were former Titans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (he could be a one-year place-holder for the starting job), Dolphins safety Chris Clemons (93 tackles), Chiefs safety Kendrick Lewis (56 tackles) and Giants running back Andre Brown (492 yards rushing) to backup Foster. Houston was hoping to speak with former Bears QB Josh McCown, but he chose to sign in Tampa.
2014 Schedule (all times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, at Oakland, 4:25 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, at NY Giants, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, at Dallas, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Thursday, Oct. 9, Indianapolis, 8:25 p.m.
Week 7: Monday, Oct. 20, at Pittsburgh, 8:30 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Houston has a schedule that ranks as the third easiest in the NFL with an opponents' 2013 winning percentage of .441. It has only four games against playoff teams.
The Texans are 1.5-point favorites on NFL odds for their season opener against Robert Griffin III and the Redskins. Washington has the second-longest losing streak entering 2014 behind Houston at eight in a row and also has a new coaching staff tp conisder in your NFL picks. There is nary a winning team on the schedule until Week 6, although you know Schaub will be fired up to face his former team in Week 2. One of Houston's most embarrassing losses of last year was to the Raiders, 28-23 at home in Week 11, when Oakland used Matt McGloin, an undrafted free agent, for his first career start.
Houston lost both games against Andrew Luck's Colts in 2013 but nearly won the matchup in Houston. That was when Kubiak collapsed at halftime and then missed a few games. Really, it's a very manageable schedule until the BYE with the only two good teams from last year, Indy and Philly, visiting Houston.
The Week 16 game will be a return to Houston for Kubiak, now the offensive coordinator of the Ravens. They started Houston's 14-game losing streak with a 30-9 blowout in Week 3 last season. The Jaguars swept Houston in 2013, winning each by a touchdown.
NFL free picks: 'Under' 8.5 wins at -135 on sportsbooks. If Houston had any type of trustworthy veteran quarterback, the 'over' might be a smart play because that is not a tough schedule. However, the thought of Fitzpatrick/Keenum/Yates under center until a 2014 draft pick is ready, likely will drag down the offense.