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Houston, Washington among Hard Knocks finalists

It looked at one time like the Browns would land Hard Knocks this year, but now the Texans look like the favorites for HBO's pre-season football documentary.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We should soon learn will be featured on this year's edition of HBO's Hard Knocks.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle confirmed the Texans were a finalist to appear on the NFL Films production and ESPN's Tania Ganguli added that Houston is a favorite, with compelling storylines from the intriguing quarterback battle between Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer, the recovery of Jadeveon Clowney, and a behind-the-scenes look at J.J. Watt, who many regard as the NFL's best player.

The exemptions from being forced to be on the show include teams with first-year head coaches, teams that have made the playoffs the last two seasons, and teams that have been featured on the series in the past 10 years. That means the Bengals won't be forced back on the show anytime soon, if they don't want to be. Beyond making the playoffs the last four consecutive years, the team was featured on the show in 2009 and 2013.

If no team volunteers to be featured on the show, NFL teams who were eligible this year to be picked for Hard Knocks included the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Minnesota VikingsTampa Bay BuccaneersSt. Louis RamsHouston TexansJacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.

ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi originally reported that the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills (shot down by GM Doug Whaley), and Washington Redskins were three finalists to host the show this year. However, the Redskins are unwilling participants and the league can't compel the Bills to appear because head coach Rex Ryan is a first-year head coach.