Game By Game Predictions For the Houston Texans In 2020

This Thursday, we all embark on what is undoubtedly the strangest Houston Texans season in my 13 years as a member of the media covering the team and my nearly 20 years as a fan. The weird thing is that I might even be saying this even if we WEREN’T starting out the season amidst a viral pandemic with little to no fans in any of the stadiums. I mean, I just finished up a preseason as one of ten media members covering the team, and I had to get COVID tested EVERY DAY.

Yet, even with all that, this was setting up as an odd season given the stamp that Bill O’Brien has put on this team in his first full year as general manager, which saw him, among several other things, trade away the best wide receiver in the game for a second round pick and a (possibly) overpaid running back three years removed from any type of sustained success.  Like I said, strange year.

So let’s figure out how this is all gonna go, shall we? And how do we do that? Well, if you’ve read my previews here in the past, you know that I divide the 16-game regular season into three buckets. We call this the Pendergast Method, and the buckets look like this:

MUST WIN: These are games that, to have any chance of making the playoffs, the Texans have to cash in on. Worst case, you can have one mulligan, but lose two of these games and you’re probably not a double-digit-win team.

COIN FLIPS: Games that could go either way and will likely be played within one score. To make the playoffs, the Texans need to win more of these games than they lose.

STEALS: Games in which the Texans will likely be an underdog of five points or more against teams that they have historically struggled with, match up poorly with or have to play in a hostile environment in potentially adverse conditions. If you’re going to be a playoff team, you probably need to win at least one of these along the way.

Some years, the Pendergast Method has worked out better than others, but just know that this is the prediction that last year’s preview yielded:

FINAL PREDICTION: 10-6, AFC South Champions, lose in Divisional Round to Kansas City

Not bad!  So where do the games on the 2020 slate stack up when we start applying the Pendergast Method? Well, let’s take a look:

MUST WINS, 2: vs JAC, vs CIN
COIN FLIPS, 11: vs MIN, at TEN, vs GB, at JAC, at CLV, vs NE, at DET, vs IND, at CHI, at IND, vs TEN
STEALS, 3: at KC, vs BAL, at PIT

Now let’s go game by game:

Thursday, September 10 (0-1) — at Kansas City
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans +8.5
PREDICTION: Chiefs 37, Texans 31
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: It’s the defending Super Bowl champions, and I’m not sure that the Texans secondary is ready for this type of all out assault this early in the Anthony Weaver Era on defense. These two teams might see each other again down the road.
BUCKET RATING: STEAL

Sunday, September 20 (0-2) — vs Baltimore
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans +5
PREDICTION: Ravens 31, Texans 27
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: A totally different challenge in Week 2 than the Chiefs in Week 1, and this one will be closer than the 41-7 thrashing the Texans sustained last year in Baltimore, but I can’t pick them to beat the Ravens yet.
BUCKET RATING: STEAL

Sunday, September 27 (1-2) — at Pittsburgh
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans +5
PREDICTION: Texans 24, Steelers 19
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Past iterations of the Texans would not have inspired this type of confidence in me, but I think this group will respond to two close losses like the season is on the line, and J.J. Watt will remind T.J. Watt who the superior Watt is with two sacks of Ben Roethlisberger.
BUCKET RATING: STEAL

Sunday, October 4 (2-2) — vs Minnesota
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans PICK EM
PREDICTION: Texans 27, Vikings 17
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: The win over the Steelers will be a sigh of relief, and Deshaun Watson ain’t losing to Kirk Cousins.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, October 11 (3-2) — vs Jacksonville
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -9
PREDICTION: Texans 38, Jaguars 13
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: The Jags are basically trying to lose. The Texans will be riding some momentum at this point. Gardner Minshew might actually be drinking before games by Week 5.
BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN

Sunday, October 18 (4-2) — at Tennessee
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans +4.5
PREDICTION: Texans 24, Titans 23
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: The Titans will come back to earth in 202 after a trip to the AFC title game in 2019. Ka’imi Fairbairn with the late field goal for the win here.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, October 25 (4-3) — vs Green Bay
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans PICK EM
PREDICTION: Packers 27, Texans 23
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: Aaron Rodgers is on his last stand here as Packers QB. He is still elite, and the Texans secondary is…. not.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, November 1 — BYE
PREDICTION:
If the coronavirus is still a thing, then my prediction is masks and social distancing, baby!

Sunday, November 8 (5-3) — at Jacksonville
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -3
PREDICTION: Texans 30, Jaguars 14
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: This one is stealing, if you’re a gambler. It’s a coin flipper by my definition of a “coin flipper”, but the Jags are going to be BAD, and the Texans will be competing hard at this point, still.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, November 15 (5-4) — at Cleveland
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans +2.5
PREDICTION: Browns 27, Texans 24
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: The Browns are actually a sneaky playoff contender this season. Talent is not an issue, and they rightfully ejected on Freddie Kitchens as their head coach after one year. He was a boob.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, November 22 (6-4) — vs New England
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -3
PREDICTION: Texans 23, Patriots 20
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Dare I say that Bill O’Brien has Bill Belichick’s number now? Well, not really, but I do think last year’s win, albeit over Tom Brady, was a breakthrough of sort for O’Brien. this just is not a great Patriots team, and the Texans are getting ready to go on a nice run down the stretch.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Thursday, November 26 (7-4) — at Detroit
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans +1
PREDICTION: Texans 28, Lions 17
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Sorry, I can’t buy into Matt Patricia. Texans win.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, December 6 (8-4) — vs Indianapolis
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -2
PREDICTION: Texans 30, Colts 23
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: This will have a “division is on the line” feel to it, and I trust Deshaun Watson more than I could ever, ever, ever trust Philip Rivers.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, December 13 (8-5) — at Chicago
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans +3.5
PREDICTION: Bears 19, Texans 13
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: A child, dreary game sandwiched in-between the two Colt games feels like recipe for disaster.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, December 20 (8-6) — at Indianapolis
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans +4.5
PREDICTION: Colts 23, Texans 17
WHY THE TEXANS WILL LOSE: While Philip Rivers is tough to trust, Lucas Oil Field is still somewhat of house of horrors for the Texans.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sunday, December 27 (9-6) — vs Cincinnati
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -6.5
PREDICTION: Texans 34, Bengals 17
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: FINALLY, a rookie QB! It’s the No. 1 overall pick, Joe Burrow, granted, but still… A ROOKIE QB! The Texans generally feast on rookie QB’s.
BUCKET RATING: MUST WIN

Sunday, January 3 (10-6) — vs Tennessee
SPREAD IF THEY PLAYED TONIGHT: Texans -1
PREDICTION: Texans 26, Titans 20
WHY THE TEXANS WILL WIN: Garden variety Week 17 win.
BUCKET RATING: COIN FLIPPER

Sadly, I think we play this game again…..

FINAL PREDICTION: 10-6, AFC South Champions, lose in Divisional Round to Kansas City

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

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