December woes can hurt a contender’s January playoff seeding. Such was the case for the 2012 Texans. Losses in three of their final five games knocked Houston down to the No. 3 spot in the AFC and left the Texans to travel to New England in the divisional round.
That did not end well for Houston.
December struggles are nothing new for the Texans, who are 4-9 in the month since 2010. And a first look at Houston’s 2013 December slate suggests the Texans will have to be on their game late in the campaign to avoid another seeding slide — or worse.
The Texans begin December by hosting the Patriots, who beat them twice a season ago. Perhaps drawing New England at Reliant Stadium will make a difference for Houston, but no matter the result, the Texans quickly have to shake it off, for a game at Jacksonville looms four days later on December 5.
The Thursday-night meeting with the Jaguars is one of three road games Houston will play in the final month. All three contests are against division opponents, with games at Indianapolis on December 15 and at Tennessee on December 29 in the regular-season finale sandwiching the Texans’ final regular-season home game — a meeting with Denver on December 22.
In short, it’s a demanding December slate for the Texans. The Patriots, Broncos and Colts all made the postseason in 2012. Moreover, the potential difficulty of road trips to Jacksonville and Tennessee can’t be overlooked. Both teams know Houston well.
A team’s December play can have little bearing on how it fares once the playoffs begin in January. The last four Super Bowl winners all lost multiple games in December, with Ravens losing 4-of-5 in the final month of calendar year 2012.
Of course, those teams had built up the necessary cushion of wins to endure December setbacks. So did the Texans en route to wins in the wild-card round in each of the last two seasons. (In 2011, they secured the division with third-string quarterback T.J. Yates with three games left in the season — a feat that must be considered when weighing their losing streak late in the campaign.)
Still, if the Texans want to earn a postseason bye for the first time in their history, a stronger closing kick would be a big help.