The Houston Texans and San Diego Chargers have gone in opposite directions in recent years. It took Houston nine years to make their first playoff appearance, but they have become one of the best teams in the AFC. The same could be said for San Diego in the mid-2000s, but the club hasn’t reached the postseason since 2009. Now, the two teams will meet to start the new season.
The Chargers will host the Texans in the finale of the Monday Night Football doubleheader. They will close out Week One of 2013.
Expectations remain high for Houston. The club set a franchise record in 2012 with 12 wins, and should be a contender in a weak conference. Only the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots have been given better odds of representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Despite their recent struggles, San Diego is usually considered a favorite to reach the playoffs. After recording less wins than the year before in three straight seasons, that is no longer the case. Only seven teams have worse odds to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy at MetLife Stadium.
Houston is led by some of the best defenders in the NFL. Defensive end J.J. Watt is trying to win his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award. Last year, he recorded 20.5 sacks, 69 total tackles and 16 pass deflections. Only Adrian Peterson, Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson and Tom Brady finished ahead of Watt on the list of the league’s top 100 players.
While Watt didn’t miss a game, Brian Cushing was only on the field for five. On Monday, the linebacker makes his return to regular season action, following an ACL tear. Cushing registered 323 tackles in the three seasons prior to his injury.
San Diego doesn’t look much different from a year ago. They hope that their players can remain healthy, and replicate their performances from a few years ago. Philip Rivers recorded passer ratings of over 101 in each season from 2008-2010. Last year, his 88.6 rating was his second-worst since becoming a starter.
The club did make one big change. Former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy took over as head coach from Norv Turner. He’s looking to turn the Chargers into a winning team and get the most out of his quarterback.
"I think we need to play better around him," McCoy said. "I've been saying that since Day One. He is a great quarterback; Philip is going to be fine. We got to get the entire team, everybody, has to do their job better and Philip will do his job better."
Since the Redskins are hosting the Eagles in the first part of Monday Night Football, the late-game is scheduled for a stat time of 10:15 p.m. ET. ESPN will broadcast the contest on TV, but fans can watch a free live stream online with watchespn.com.
Betting Odds: Houston-4.5, 44.5
Prediction: San Diego 24, Houston 21