Last year I undershot, predicting 8-8 while the Houston Texans went 9-7 despite dramatic quarterback turmoil. There are some significant pieces missing right now (like the name of the starting quarterback) but as things stand now I expect the Texans to be better and to take advantage of having the third easiest schedule in the league.
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13, Kansas City, 1 p.m.
This game will debut the Texans new quarterback and revamped defense. Kansas City finished 9-7 last season with a 3-5 road record. The Texans won their opener last season and will again. Texans 22, Chiefs 14. Record: 1-0.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, at Carolina, 1 p.m.
Cam Newton took a beating last season, so the Panthers upgraded their pass protection, signing left tackle Michael Oher. They'll be better than they were last season, and give the Texans an early wake-up call. Panthers 24, Texans 20. Record: 1-1.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
They have the first pick in the draft and many expect them to take a quarterback. This early in the season, any rookie attempting that position will be working through some early struggles and the Texans' hot start will continue. Texans 17, Buccaneers 10. Record: 2-1.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, at Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Here's another team going through a transition. The Falcons fired coach Mike Smith and hired Dan Quinn after going 6-10 in 2014. At this point, the Texans should also be clicking better with an offense run by either Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett and one that likely includes a rookie receiver in a prominent role. Texans 31, Falcons 20. Record 3-1.
Week 5: Thursday, Oct. 8, Indianapolis, 8:25 p.m.
In general the schedule is very kind to the Texans. It's the third easiest schedule in the league. This game, though, is a departure from that. Not only will they face a team they've only ever beat four times in team history, and one featuring the greatest player in Texans history, Andre Johnson, who was cut last month, they'll be doing it on three days rest. Colts 28, Texans 17. Record: 3-2.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Rested after 10 days, the Texans will defeat their improving division rival. Houston's defense will still be too much for Jacksonville up front. It's likely, though, that with a new offensive coordinator, last year's plan of leaving J.J. Watt unblocked will be abandoned. Texans 20, Jaguars 14. Record: 4-2.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25, at Miami, 1 p.m.
Miami added the most high profile free agent of the offseason in former Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh. The only problem is, big spending in free agency often doesn't translate to wins. Their dearth of receivers will hurt here, too. Texans 17, Dolphins 13. Record: 5-2
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, Tennessee, 1 p.m.
The Titans had so many needs after last season that one draft won't fix all of it. The Texans will head into their bye week with a divisional win, evening their division record. Also J.J. Watt will have a safety. Texans 26, Titans 3. Record: 6-2.
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: Monday, Nov. 16, at Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m.
The Texans have two playoff wins over the Bengals, but when they met last season, the Bengals got the best of the Texans. It was Mallett's second start, and the one he played with a torn pectoral muscle. Though it will be a close game, the Bengals will finish on top again. Bengals 21, Texans 17. Record: 6-3.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Former Texans director of college scouting Mike Maccagnan returns to Houston as the Jets new general manager. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick also returns to one of his many former teams, though whether he'll return as the starter or backup at that point of the season remains to be seen. Texans 17, Jets 10. Record: 7-3.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, New Orleans, 1 p.m.
The Saints underwent significant turnover this offseason and are likely close to a quarterback transition. This will be a winnable game for the Texans, but they'll lose it. Saints 21, Texans 20. Record 7-4.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
This game will be unpleasant because it's cold, but the Bills haven't solved their quarterback problem yet -- a problem highlighted in their 2014 loss to the Texans. Watt absolutely terrorized then-Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel and the only real upgrade the Bills made to their offensive line was the addition of Richie Incognito. Watt will get another safety. Texans 13, Bills 6. Record: 8-4.
Week 14: Sunday Dec. 13, New England, 1 p.m.
The defending Super Bowl champions will arrive, reuniting many old friends and colleagues. Texans coach Bill O'Brien began his NFL coaching career with the Patriots, quarterbacks coach George Godsey coached there, linebackers coach Mike Vrabel spent most of his playing career with the Patriots, nose tackle Vince Wilfork was drafted there and played in New England for 11 years, and both Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett both shared a quarterback room with Tom Brady in their football pasts. The students won't surpass the teachers just yet though. Patriots 35, Texans 27. Record 8-5.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Andre Johnson will enjoy a sweep of his former team, and the Texans will continue their winless streak in Indianapolis. With a strong record against teams that aren't the Colts, though, it might not prevent a trip to the playoffs this year. Colts 17, Texans 10. Record: 8-6.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
They could get to the playoffs despite being swept by the Colts because of the rest of the schedule, which will end gently with divisional games against the Titans and Jaguars. Texans 24, Titans 13. Record: 9-6.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
This will be a win they need at the end of the season, and what could propel them back to the playoffs for only the third time in franchise history. Of course, this depends on the Texans as yet unnamed starting quarterback playing well enough for the Texans to reach this point. Texans 30, Jaguars 24. Record: 10-6