Schedule Power Poll: Texans land toughest road to playoffs

The wild card that shakes up the NFL playoff race every year? It’s called strength of schedule, and it’s an early challenge for seven contenders who face the toughest 2010 schedules:

 

Matt Schaub must come out firing if he and his team are to return to the playoffs.
Matt Schaub must come out firing if he and his team are to return to the playoffs.

1. Houston Texans. On top of the brutal AFC South, the Ravens, Jets and the NFC East stand in front of Houston’s first playoff berth.

 
2. Cincinnati Bengals. They have a murderer’s row of conference road games: New England, Indy, New York, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
 
3. New York Giants. The final-month stretch, including trips to Minnesota, Green Bay and Washington, could cause them to fade.
 
4. Dallas Cowboys. If they make the playoffs, they will be battle-tested after playing at Houston, Minnesota, Green Bay and Indy. Strangely, their first Eagles game is Dec. 12.
 
5. New England Patriots. After a Week 5 bye, they have a six-week stretch that includes the Ravens, Chargers, Vikings, Colts and Steelers.
 
6. Tennessee Titans. Unlike last year, they should at least get off to a good start with three of four winnable September games at home.
 
7. Philadelphia Eagles. Finishing second means drawing the promising Falcons and 49ers. The Vikings and Cowboys visit in the final two weeks.
 
8. Washington Redskins. They start with a tough Texas two-step (Dallas, Houston) and then open October with the Eagles, Packers and Colts.
 
9. Jacksonville Jaguars. There aren’t many treats leading up to a Dallas road game on Halloween. Plus, all their division road games are in December and January.
 
10. Cleveland Browns. It quickly goes downhill after potentially starting 2-0 against Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
 
11. Indianapolis Colts. Yeah, it’s loaded, but does it really matter? Most every foe already has drawn a loss in pencil next to Indy.
 
12. New York Jets. With their gritty defense and running game, a cold December at home and in New England, Pittsburgh and Chicago fits.
 
13. Baltimore Ravens. Their ’09 season was full of challenges and close calls, and ’10 looks the same. The first six weeks include the Jets, Bengals, Steelers and Patriots—all on the road.
 
14. Buffalo Bills. They’ll be out of the division and playoff race early after opening with the Dolphins, Packers, Patriots and Jets.
 
15. Minnesota Vikings. If Brett Favre returns, he’ll have an interesting October with the Jets, Packers and Patriots on the road and the Cowboys in the dome. 
 
16. Miami Dolphins. There’s the usual division grind, and the Packers, Steelers, Bengals, Ravens and Titans await them after a Week 5 bye.
 
17. Detroit Lions. Want to know when they’ll be favored for the only time? It’s when the Rams visit Ford Field in Week 5.
 
18. Chicago Bears. They have a final four they already would like to forget: New England, at Minnesota, the Jets and at Green Bay.
 
19. Oakland Raiders. Playing the two West divisions makes for a favorable home schedule, including St. Louis and Seattle—until the Colts visit in Week 16.
 
20. Green Bay Packers. Their first six games should set them up nicely in the NFC North race before the midseason bump of the Vikings (twice), Cowboys and Jets.
 
21. Atlanta Falcons. They might start slowly with Pittsburgh, Arizona and New Orleans, but the final seven weeks should push them into the playoffs.
 
22. Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s not too bad, except for consecutive midseason road games at Miami, New Orleans and Cincinnati.
 
23. Denver Broncos. They better start 2-0 against Jacksonville and Seattle because the Colts, Titans, Ravens and Jets come next.
 
24. New Orleans Saints. It works nicely for the Super Bowl champs, who have only three daunting games: Minnesota, at Dallas and at Baltimore.
 

25. Arizona Cardinals. Four out of their first six are on the road, but they should be thankful for three straight at home after Turkey Day. 

 
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For a rebuilding team, the Browns, Lions and Rams games could build confidence.
 
27. Seattle Seahawks. Pete Carroll gets some training wheels here, making the transition from the Pac-10 to a West-heavy schedule.
 
28. San Diego Chargers. With their typical favorable combination of games, we won’t know how good they are until playing at Indy in Week 12.
 
29. San Francisco 49ers. They should be much improved and with another sweep of the Cardinals they should breeze to the division title.
 
30. Kansas City Chiefs. Outside of Weeks 5 and 6 (at Indy, at Houston), the Chiefs have enough in their favor to be a surprise wild-card contender.
 
31. Carolina Panthers. If they get rolling well before the final month—Atlanta (twice), Arizona and at Pittsburgh—watch out.
 
32. St. Louis Rams. Already in a weak NFC West, playing fellow doormats Oakland, Washington, Detroit, Tampa and Kansas City might help them be respectable.
 
Vinnie Iyer is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

The wild card that shakes up the NFL playoff race every year? It’s called strength of schedule, and it’s an early challenge for seven contenders who face the toughest 2010 schedules:

 

Matt Schaub must come out firing if he and his team are to return to the playoffs.
Matt Schaub must come out firing if he and his team are to return to the playoffs.

1. Houston Texans. On top of the brutal AFC South, the Ravens, Jets and the NFC East stand in front of Houston’s first playoff berth.

 
2. Cincinnati Bengals. They have a murderer’s row of conference road games: New England, Indy, New York, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
 
3. New York Giants. The final-month stretch, including trips to Minnesota, Green Bay and Washington, could cause them to fade.
 
4. Dallas Cowboys. If they make the playoffs, they will be battle-tested after playing at Houston, Minnesota, Green Bay and Indy. Strangely, their first Eagles game is Dec. 12.
 
5. New England Patriots. After a Week 5 bye, they have a six-week stretch that includes the Ravens, Chargers, Vikings, Colts and Steelers.
 
6. Tennessee Titans. Unlike last year, they should at least get off to a good start with three of four winnable September games at home.
 
7. Philadelphia Eagles. Finishing second means drawing the promising Falcons and 49ers. The Vikings and Cowboys visit in the final two weeks.
 
8. Washington Redskins. They start with a tough Texas two-step (Dallas, Houston) and then open October with the Eagles, Packers and Colts.
 
9. Jacksonville Jaguars. There aren’t many treats leading up to a Dallas road game on Halloween. Plus, all their division road games are in December and January.
 
10. Cleveland Browns. It quickly goes downhill after potentially starting 2-0 against Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
 
11. Indianapolis Colts. Yeah, it’s loaded, but does it really matter? Most every foe already has drawn a loss in pencil next to Indy.
 
12. New York Jets. With their gritty defense and running game, a cold December at home and in New England, Pittsburgh and Chicago fits.
 
13. Baltimore Ravens. Their ’09 season was full of challenges and close calls, and ’10 looks the same. The first six weeks include the Jets, Bengals, Steelers and Patriots—all on the road.
 
14. Buffalo Bills. They’ll be out of the division and playoff race early after opening with the Dolphins, Packers, Patriots and Jets.
 
15. Minnesota Vikings. If Brett Favre returns, he’ll have an interesting October with the Jets, Packers and Patriots on the road and the Cowboys in the dome. 
 
16. Miami Dolphins. There’s the usual division grind, and the Packers, Steelers, Bengals, Ravens and Titans await them after a Week 5 bye.
 
17. Detroit Lions. Want to know when they’ll be favored for the only time? It’s when the Rams visit Ford Field in Week 5.
 
18. Chicago Bears. They have a final four they already would like to forget: New England, at Minnesota, the Jets and at Green Bay.
 
19. Oakland Raiders. Playing the two West divisions makes for a favorable home schedule, including St. Louis and Seattle—until the Colts visit in Week 16.
 
20. Green Bay Packers. Their first six games should set them up nicely in the NFC North race before the midseason bump of the Vikings (twice), Cowboys and Jets.
 
21. Atlanta Falcons. They might start slowly with Pittsburgh, Arizona and New Orleans, but the final seven weeks should push them into the playoffs.
 
22. Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s not too bad, except for consecutive midseason road games at Miami, New Orleans and Cincinnati.
 
23. Denver Broncos. They better start 2-0 against Jacksonville and Seattle because the Colts, Titans, Ravens and Jets come next.
 
24. New Orleans Saints. It works nicely for the Super Bowl champs, who have only three daunting games: Minnesota, at Dallas and at Baltimore.
 

25. Arizona Cardinals. Four out of their first six are on the road, but they should be thankful for three straight at home after Turkey Day. 

 
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For a rebuilding team, the Browns, Lions and Rams games could build confidence.
 
27. Seattle Seahawks. Pete Carroll gets some training wheels here, making the transition from the Pac-10 to a West-heavy schedule.
 
28. San Diego Chargers. With their typical favorable combination of games, we won’t know how good they are until playing at Indy in Week 12.
 
29. San Francisco 49ers. They should be much improved and with another sweep of the Cardinals they should breeze to the division title.
 
30. Kansas City Chiefs. Outside of Weeks 5 and 6 (at Indy, at Houston), the Chiefs have enough in their favor to be a surprise wild-card contender.
 
31. Carolina Panthers. If they get rolling well before the final month—Atlanta (twice), Arizona and at Pittsburgh—watch out.
 
32. St. Louis Rams. Already in a weak NFC West, playing fellow doormats Oakland, Washington, Detroit, Tampa and Kansas City might help them be respectable.
 
Vinnie Iyer is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

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