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Houston Texans

Vandermeer's View: Schedule shakedown

This is the 16th season of Texans football and they've only opened on the road four times. Not that we should be complaining. The Texans have won six of their last seven home openers. This year they'll entertain Jacksonville to kick off the campaign.

There are certain things I always check right away when the schedule is released. The opener is first. The second is when the games with Indy will take place. For the eighth time in a row, the matchup in Indianapolis is the second part of the home and home. That's unusual. In fact, the Texans play the second half of their division games all on the road in December.  

The prime time slate is also notable. Getting a Week 5 Sunday nighter at home with the Chiefs is fun. And I like that there's no prime time road game in New England (the toughest place to get to in the NFL) and Seattle. Houston will just have to deal with an all-nighter coming back from Baltimore following their MNF tilt on November 27th.

See photos of CenturyLink Field.

You might think Cincinnati on the road for a Thursday night game in Week 2 is tricky, and it is. But it's not as daunting travel-wise as New England was last year in Week 3. The flight to Cincinnati is shorter and the team will likely stay within walking distance of the stadium. A far cry from last year's feature-film-length bus ride from the hotel to Foxboro. You might think I'm too nit-picky with travel but, believe me, these things matter.

Some will say the bye comes earlier than desired with a Week 7 break. But it's actually after 10 preseason and regular season games, so it's right in the middle if you look at things that way.

The four games vs the NFC West all happen after the bye, along with four of the AFC South contests. The Texans will have to hope that they are once again sharp down the stretch as they look for the fourth-consecutive winning season and third-straight playoff berth.

If you had four prime time games as your guess going into the schedule release, you win. The Christmas day get-together with the Steelers is actually part of the NBC-NFL Network-Amazon package (hmm, people watching on Amazon while they think about post-holiday purchases. Imagine the possibilities).

You never know how a schedule will play out. The Texans will see tough quarterbacks this year in Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck. But don't forget about Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton and Alex Smith. Wait, did we fail to mention Marcus Mariota and Carson Palmer? All of a sudden, this slate looks loaded.

Houston will bring most of last year's number one defense back to the party. This time, with a healthy J.J. Watt. It'll be up to Bill O'Brien and Rick Smith to make sure they improve enough on offense, while continuing to play well defensively, to deal with the tough road ahead of them.

Check out the top 10 quarterbacks the Texans will face in 2017, ranked by last season's QBR.

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