The Texans play 13 different opponents in the 2017 season, including the defending World Champion New England Patriots, the entire NFC West and the entire AFC North. Here is my list of the top 50 players that the Texans will face in those 13 games. There are fewer quarterbacks on this list (Brady, Big Ben, Mariota, Luck) than last year (Rodgers, Rivers, Carr, Luck, Mariota) but the running backs?? Whoa, what a group (Bell, Johnson, Murray, Hill, Gurley)! Quibble where you will, but it's clear who's at the top of the list.
- QB Tom Brady, Patriots - The GOAT
- QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers - Remember that 2014 game? He'll be even better
- RB Le'Veon Bell, Steelers - The engine driving the black and yellow machine and the most patient runner in the league
- DT/DE Aaron Donald, Rams - The best defensive player in the game...that doesn't play in Houston, of course
- RB David Johnson, Cardinals - Over 2,100 yards total offense in 2016 and 80 receptions to
6. TE Rob Gronkowski, Patriots - If, IF healthy, no one can cover him
7. S Eric Berry, Chiefs - The heart and soul of an outstanding Chiefs defense
8. QB Russell Wilson, Seahawks - Got beat up a bunch in 2016, but still threw for 4,219 yards
9. CB Patrick Peterson, Cardinals - Lock. Down. Cover. Corner. Period.
10. TE/H Travis Kelce, Chiefs - Although Texans had success stopping him in 2016, he's a stud
11. S Earl Thomas, Seahawks - If healthy, he's one of two best safeties in the game
12. T Joe Thomas, Browns - Steady and reliable, he's a rock at left tackle
13. WR A.J. Green, Bengals - Missed game v. Texans last year, big play threat
14. CB Marcus Peters, Chiefs - I wish he missed the Texans game last year...and both games the year before that
15. DE Michael Bennett, Seahawks - Since arriving in the league, his game has evolved and he's become one of the best interior rushers in the NFL
- ATH Tyreek Hill, Chiefs**
- The Cheetah can change any game in ten seconds flat.
17. CB Richard Sherman, Seahawks- Still as dominant as ever in Seattle's cover scheme.
18. ILB Bobby Wagner, Seahawks- Doesn't get the publicity he deserves, 168 tackles in 2016
19. G Marshal Yanda, Ravens- Steady and nasty, the prototype at this position in the NFL
20. CB Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars- I HATE Dallas for not selecting him at No. 4 in 2016 Draft. **
- The Cheetah can change any game in ten seconds flat. 17. CB Richard Sherman, Seahawks- Still as dominant as ever in Seattle's cover scheme. 18. ILB Bobby Wagner, Seahawks- Doesn't get the publicity he deserves, 168 tackles in 2016
- WR T.Y. Hilton, Colts**
- The Ghost bounced back in 2016, 91 catches, 1,448 yards
22. RB DeMarco Murray, Titans- Speaking of bouncing back, Murray revitalized Titan offense in 2016
23. QB Andrew Luck, Colts- When healthy, he's near top of this list, but will he be in 2017? 24. DT Geno Atkins, Bengals- Dominant presence on interior, always gives Texans fits. 25. ILB Jamie Collins, Browns - Traded to Cleveland in 2016, he re-signed with Cleveland to give it a foundation piece for next five to seven years
- The Ghost bounced back in 2016, 91 catches, 1,448 yards
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26. QB Marcus Mariota, Titans - Has only played against the Texans once in two years
27. OT Jack Conklin, Titans - A better overall tackle than his teammate Taylor Lewan and this year will prove that theory
28. WR Julian Edelman, Patriots - A major thorn in the side of the Texans no matter when and where they play them
29. S Tyrann Mathieu, Cardinals - The Honey Badger is one of my favorites in the NFL
30. ILB Dont'a Hightower, Patriots - Thankfully, he'll still be wearing Patriots colors and not a Titans jersey as some surmised he might in 2017
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31. C Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers - One of the best centers to ever play in this league, selected to his fifth Pro Bowl in 2016
32. DT Jurrell Casey, Titans - As underrated as it gets, I HATE seeing him twice a season, playing for a defensive mastermind like Dick LeBeau
33. WR Brandin Cooks, Patriots - Could ultimately be higher on this list, but want to see what his fit will be in New England is before I push that theory
34. G David DeCastro, Steelers - Similar to Marshal Yanda, he epitomizes the power and strength of a Pittsburgh offensive lineman
35. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals - Still great after all these years, but does most of his work from the slot now
36. OT Taylor Lewan, Titans - I don't have much to say about this guy. Next.
37. CB A.J. Bouye, Jaguars - Going to miss him in Houston as he fits Jacksonville's turnaround to a T
38. TE/H Delanie Walker, Titans - The one player that I worry about the most when playing Tennessee
39. DE Chandler Jones, Cardinals - The best edge pass rusher that the Texans will face from the NFC in 2017
40. ILB C.J. Mosley, Ravens - Named to his second Pro Bowl in three years, 92 tackles in 2016
41. S Eric Weddle, Ravens - His presence has meant the world to the Ravens secondary; he's still playing at a high level
42. DE Stephon Tuitt, Steelers - Stats don't really tell the story of how far he's progressed as a Steeler defensive end
43. DE Cam Heyward, Steelers - If healthy, he teams with Tuitt to wreak havoc on opposing run games
44. RB Todd Gurley, Rams - Didn't have great 2016 amongst the mess that was this Rams offense, but don't expect a repeat of that in 2017
45. ILB Ryan Shazier, Steelers - After an 87 tackle season, he was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2016
46. WR Allen Robinson, Jaguars - Didn't reach statistical highs like he did in 2015, but his ball skills and athleticism are worrisome.
47. DE Calais Campbell, Jaguars - Cookie Monster will certainly impact the Jacksonville defense in 2017
48. QB Carson Palmer, Cardinals - He's not out of gas...yet
49. OLB Brian Orakpo, Titans - The only true edge pass rushing threat in the AFC South, not wearing a Houston jersey
50. DE Myles Garrett, Browns - He'll quickly transform this Browns defense if he's healthy, something he wasn't often in his three years at Texas A&M and early this offseason