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Texans Set To Renew Biggest Rivalry In Franchise History

With a roster still devoid of talent, there is once again little expectation for the Texans to contend for anything this coming season. That being said, football is football, and as proven by Houston last year, a terrible team doesn’t necessarily mean every game will be boring or uncompetitive. In fact, looking at the newly released NFL schedule, several of Houston’s matchups certainly provide plenty of intrigue.

So, whether it’s playing against the top talent in the league, showing out on primetime, or facing the biggest rival in franchise history, there is still plenty for Texans fans to be excited about heading into the 2022 season. Here’s a look at the next year’s most anticipated games:

Week Two: Texans At Broncos

An early road test for the Texans will come in week two as they face the Denver Broncos. This game is of great significance because it will serve as quarterback Rusell Wilson’s first-ever home opener as a member of the Broncos. Wilson was acquired by Denver over the offseason in a blockbuster trade with the Seahawks. A former Super Bowl winner, his veteran presence is expected to take the Broncos to a new level of dominance on the field.

With that being said, Houston will certainly have their work cut out for them. But, a challenge is just another word for an opportunity, and that’s the mentality Texans’ head coach Lovie Smith will likely be preaching to his team ahead of this matchup.

On the defensive side of the ball, facing Denver is an early chance to see how Houston’s revamped secondary looks. Rookies Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre are both expected to be day one starters at cornerback and safety respectively. Now, it will be near impossible for them to neutralize Wilson and the Broncos’ passing attack. But, containing Wilson and forcing a turnover or two would be an early indication that the capital Nick Cesario invested in the early rounds of this year’s draft was well spent.

Offensively, this may be the toughest game of the entire season for the Texans. Denver is a hostile road environment, even without the added importance of this game. Not to mention, the Broncos’ defense is widely considered to be a top-five unit in the NFL with Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory leading a violent pass rush while Patrick Surtain and Justin Simmons command the back end. Nonetheless, the time for Davis Mills to shine is now. He and new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton will need to find a way to move the football in this matchup. Otherwise, the focus will already begin to shift towards 2023.

Weeks Eight and 16: Texans vs Titans

In recent years, this AFC South rivalry has picked up plenty of steam. Here are some quick facts. Three of the last four matchups have been one-score games. These three games either concluded in overtime or with a game-winning field goal. The lone “blowout” was a Texans win last season. Going further back, the two teams have split the series four of the last five seasons, with the all-time record favoring the Titans 22-18. Evidently, no matter the state of either franchise, the Texans and Titans rarely fail to deliver an exciting matchup.

Week eight will be a chance for Davis Mills and the Texans to avenge a crushing 28-25 defeat at home in the final game of the 2021 season. The game ended up being Mills’ best of the year as he threw for over 300 yards, three touchdowns, a 69.7% completion percentage, and a 128.5 passer rating. Despite the loss, Mill’s performance secured him the starting job heading into this season. This year’s week eight clash will yet again be a big moment for Mills to prove himself. Continued success against a divisional rival could be the difference between him keeping his job or the front office taking an early look at the 2023 quarterback class.

The week sixteen matchup will take place in Tennessee on Christmas Eve. Aside from the holiday festivity, the circumstances surrounding the game are expected to look similar to late last year with the Texans out of the playoff race, while the Titans battle with the Colts for supremacy over the AFC South.

Nonetheless, Houston will have the opportunity to show out against a divisional foe on National Television. And once again, it may be Davis Mills’ final chance of the year to prove his worth. Additionally, by this point in the season, Texans cornerback Derek Stingley and Titans wide receiver, Treylon Burks are expected to have carved out starting roles on their teams. This rookie vs rookie showdown could be an early preview of one of the most exciting annual player battles in the league.

Week Nine: Texans vs Eagles

In the sympathy primetime game, the NFL is forced to give to every team, the Texans host the Eagles on Thursday Night Football. Although seemingly mediocre compared to the rest of this season’s late-night affairs, this matchup still features excitement on both sides of the ball.

As usual, the headlines leading up to this game will surround the two opposing quarterbacks. Both Davis Mills and Jalen Hurts are young with something to prove. They actually put up similar numbers in 2021, each hovering around the 3,000-yard mark, tossing 16 touchdowns, and finishing with passer ratings of around 88.0.

However, each of these young QBs also has differing play styles, with Hurts making big plays with his legs and Mills delivering accurate strikes from the pocket. As already discussed with Mills, the better of the two in this matchup will have increased job security heading into 2023, while the loser is all the more likely to be replaced in the offseason.

The quarterbacks aren’t the only players who will duke it out in this one. In fact, an underrated rookie versus rookie battle is likely to ensue in the trenches. The best run-blocking offensive lineman from this year’s draft class, Texans rookie Kenyon Green, will face off against the best run defender from this year’s class, Eagles defensive tackle Jordan Davis. Whoever gains the advantage will determine Houston’s ability to establish the run, and thus, may ultimately decide the outcome of the game.

The other Texans’ first-round pick, Derek Stingley, gets a great matchup against one of the league’s best in Eagles wide receiver AJ Brown. Locking up Brown on the national stage would boost the league-wide consensus on Stingley immensely. The contest with Philidelphia also serves as a major opportunity for Houston’s entire defense. Playing at home on primetime usually bodes well for any defensive unit. Plus, while the Eagles are expected to find success with their young offensive core, the Texans’ ability to force turnovers could rattle Jalen Hurts and company and lead to a sneaky Houston victory.

Week 13: Texans vs Browns

Deshaun Watson returns. That is all that needs to be said to convey the implications of this game. Taken in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft by Houston, Watson was destined to finally be the Texans’ franchise quarterback. And, he initially delivered on that promise, throwing for 14,539 yards, 104 touchdowns, and completing 67.8% of his passes, breaking numerous franchise records along the way. Watson established himself as a top-five NFL quarterback and was rewarded with a four-year contract from the Texans in 2020, worth $160 million.

However, things took a turn for the worst after the 2020 season when Watson demanded a trade from the team following disputes with ownership. Then, in March of 2021, 22 allegations of sexual assault came out against the superstar quarterback, causing him to fall out of favor with the public. Fast forward a year later to this offseason, and Watson was finally traded to Cleveland with Houston receiving three first-round picks in exchange.

Cleary, the stage has been set for this week 13 showdown. Watson was once viewed as a hero in Houston, a humble kid out of Clemson, destined to carry the Texans to the promised land. Just over a year later, he is now viewed as an arrogant, selfish, immoral man, who did it all for the money and fame. He betrayed his most loyal fans and left those who continued to stick by him without so much as a goodbye.

Watson broke the hearts of everyone in the city of Houston. But December 4th, 2022, is the day for payback. No one expects the Texans to win. But in a game that is often about so much more than football, writing off Davis Mills’ squad is extremely premature.

Week 14: Texans at Cowboys

The final game on this list is arguably the most important. In week 14, the Texans will face their biggest rival in franchise history: the Dallas Cowboys. Touted as the “Texas Showdown” this rivalry dates back to the Texans’ first game ever way back in 2002. In that inaugural game, Houston pulled off an improbable upset, beating Dallas 19-10. Billy Miller caught the first touchdown in Texans’ franchise history in the first quarter and Seth Payne sacked Cowboy’s quarterback Quincy Carter for a game-sealing safety.

Dallas went on to win the next three matchups between the two teams before Houston won the most recent in 2018. That game featured an incredible back and forth, ending in a Kaimi Farbarin game-winning field goal in overtime following DeAndre Hopkins’ infamous “spin cycle”. The last two meetings between these teams (2014 and 2018) have actually both gone into overtime, with both teams being evenly matched over the last decade. Each were in similar spots, winning mediocre divisions only to falter against the better teams in their respective conferences during the playoffs.

However, ahead of this year’s contest, Dallas is heavily favored over Houston. While the Cowboys are once again expected to be fighting for a spot in the NFC playoffs by week 14, the Texans will likely already be looking on to next year. That being said, there is still potential for this game to come down to the wire. Both Dallas and Houston specialize in forcing turnovers, and a few are sure to ensue in this meeting. Texans rookie Derek Stingley will be put up against a top-end, young receiver in CeeDee Lamb. Locking him up will be key to forcing Dak Prescott into undesirable passing situations.

On the other side, Davis Mills will need to be cautious with the football as well with Trevon Diggs lurking in the Cowboys’ secondary. But, the Dallas defense has been prone to giving up sizable yardage through the air in recent years, and Mills should have the opportunity to make several big plays downfield.

Whatever happens, the build-up for this game will only get stronger in the coming months. Not only are Houston and Dallas rivals in sports, but everything about the two largest cities in Texas sparks debate. Back to football, the Texans will look to continue squashing the “little brother” notion associated with them and the Cowboys. The fact that this opportunity only comes every 4 years means that regardless of record, this game carries unmatched importance.

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