Houston Texans: How football has historically fared in the holiday season

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Jadeveon Clowney
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Jadeveon Clowney /

The Houston Texans will play on Christmas Day for the first time ever when they host Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon. It will be only the second time a Houston pro football team plays on Christmas. Between its two teams, Houston has played a lot on the days around Christmas.

Houston Texans fans will get to open a rare gift on Christmas this year. The Houston Texans will play on that day against Pittsburgh. It will be the first time ever that a Christmas Day game is played in Houston and only the second time ever that a team from Houston plays on Christmas Day.

By comparison, the Houston Texans have played on Christmas Eve three times and Boxing Day twice. Before the Oilers left town in 1997, they’ve played on Christmas once in 1993 but were comfortable on the gridiron Christmas Eve, having done so five times.

I intended to turn this into Houston football teams history on Christmas much like I did for the Rockets on Thanksgiving Eve last month. Alas there wasn’t a big enough sample size for just Christmas. So I stretched the sample size to include three days before Christmas (Dec. 22) all the way to three days after New Years Day (Jan 4). I’d like to make a shout out to Pro Football  Reference, a site that has tons of data on this topic.

An early history of holiday football in Houston

From 1960 to 1996, the city of Houston’s football team was known as the Oilers. Sound familiar?  In their 36 years in Houston, the Oilers went 17-14 in games played between December 22 and January 4. Of those 31 games, 12 were in the playoffs and the Oilers went 7-5 in those playoff games. The fifth playoff loss was probably the most painful for Houstonians as it was the collapse against Buffalo on January 3, 1993.

All of the Oilers appearances in the AFL Championship game fell between Dec. 22 and Jan. 4 and they started out 2-0 in AFL championship games but then went 0-2 before the merger.

The most common day to see Oilers football in those years was either Dec. 23rd or 24th. Both of those days saw the Oilers play a total of five games over the years. Houston was 2-3 on Dec. 23rd and 4-1 on Christmas Eve.

The Oilers played Buffalo more than any other team during the holidays. Houston’s first football team played Buffalo four times and went 1-3 against them. Five different teams played against the Oilers at least three times during the holidays. Those five were the New York Jets, Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders.

The Oilers holiday history was better at home. They went 9-6 in 15 games played in Houston and 8-8 in their road trips.

The Houston Texans enter the scene

On December 22, 1996 the Oilers played their final game representing the city of Houston. It was six years to the day later that Houston’s second NFL team, the Texans, took the field for a holiday game for the first time.

The Texans have played a total 27 games on holiday week. Since they started out losing six of their

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first seven holiday games the Texans have won 12 of 20 since. Their 12-15 record combined with the Oilers 17-14 gives the city of Houston a 29-29 record between December 22 and January 4.

Houston’s second football team has played most often on Dec. 22, Christmas Eve and New Year’s day. Of those three days, the Texans are 0-3 on Dec. 22 and New Year’s Day but 2-1 for Christmas Eve.

Because the holiday games correspond with Week 16 and 17, the Texans most common opponents are their AFC South division rivals. Houston has played Jacksonville six times and has gone 5-1 against the Jaguars. The Texans and Indianapolis will play for the sixth time on New Year’s Eve. Tennessee has faced the Texans five times on holiday week.

Notable games that the Texans have played on holiday week include the teams first ever shutout, 21-0, over Jacksonville on December 26, 2004 and the first ever win over Indianapolis on Christmas Eve in 2006.

Next: Jadeveon Clowney: From Bust to Superstar

A look at this year

While the Texans have never faced Pittsburgh on a holiday week, the Steelers did play the Oilers twice in 1989 and 1990. The Oilers went 1-1 against Pittsburgh.

Houston will close out their 2017 football season this New Year’s Eve against the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans will have a chance to improve their holiday record against the Colts to 2-4.