The NFL released their 2011 regular season schedule earlier tonight which means we have had some time to digest the news. The schedule release is a welcome fix for football junkies around the world as fans have been hungry for some news concerning the game as opposed to the lockout which threatens to delay/cancel the season.
Many people are rushing to break down the schedule. The problem with that? Well, rosters are wildly incomplete due to the lack of free agency and the NFL Draft being next week. Your Houston Texans, for example, could barely field a defense and have no fullback. How can I predict the games when no one knows what the team, especially the defense, will look like?
The unknown that is the defense does help the Texans during the early part of the schedule as teams will not have any game film on new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' defense. Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts will have to prepare with old game tape and some guesses while the Miami Dolphins, who have never beaten the Texans, and whoever is the quarterback there will only have the one game to study.
The rough stretch of the season hits with Houston taking on the offensive juggernaut Saints, intensely physical Steelers, and equally physical Ravens over the course of four weeks. This is broken up by the nearly annual game against the Raiders. If the Texans can stand up to this first third of the season, they may have a chance at playing meaningful football in the second half of the season.
That second half of the season is highlighted by the Texas returns of Cleveland Browns quarterback, and Texas Longhorn alumnus, Colt McCoy and Atlanta Falcons cornerback, and former Texan, Dunta Robinson as both their teams head to Houston. After back-to-back match-ups against two teams drafting in the top-four next week (Cincinnati and Carolina), the Texans draw the Colts on a Thursday night game and finish the year on New Year's against the hated Tennessee Titans.
It's a tough schedule, but that toughness is front-loaded before the bye week which many will see as a positive...if the Texans are contending that is. There is not any home or road stretch longer than two weeks plus the Texans avoid any long trips to the west coast. In an interesting tidbit, the Texans will play three games in the state of Florida which should make the many Texans who graduated from the University of Miami (FL) happy to get multiple trips near home.
Overall, it's hard to predict how the Texans season will turn out. All I can tell now is that we will know who the real Houston Texans are within those first six weeks.