A closer look at the Houston Texans' 2013 regular season schedule

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Steady progression over the past three seasons has evolved the Houston Texans into a team that has championship expectations. With the NFL schedule released Thursday, the Texans’ competition will test those expectations.

Houston will have to face the reigning AFC and NFC champions within the first five weeks of the season. The last team to face the two Super Bowl teams within the first five weeks was the Arizona Cardinals in 2007.  They went on to win both.

With the acquisitions of Nnamdi Asomugha and Anquan Boldin, San Francisco seems to provide a tougher challenge than Baltimore. However, the Ravens have slightly recovered from their off-season losses, signing Michael Huff and Elvis Dumervil to lengthy contracts.

One of the departed, safety Ed Reed, will get his homecoming in week three, and Houston will get a chance to win two in a row against the Ravens for the first time in franchise history.

With both Super Bowl participants at the top of the schedule, this marks one of the tougher openings for the Texans. This season the Texans will face three teams in the opening month who are coming off playoff seasons. The last two seasons they faced three total. None were Super Bowl teams.

Houston also gets four primetime games, a place they struggled a season ago. Twice the Texans were embarrassed on national television, losing to Green Bay, 42-24 and New England, 42-14.

With seven games against 2012 playoff teams this season, it’s going to be tough for the Texans to reach the playoffs for the third straight time. If they can get there, they will be the second fastest expansion team to reach three straight playoff seasons since the merger in 1970.