MATT HARAB

4 NFL games to watch this weekend not involving the Texans

The Jaguars hope to ride their defense against Dallas. Jacksonvillejaguars.com

There are certain games over the course of the season that you simply cannot lose if you want to seriously consider yourself contenders for the playoffs.  The Texans have one of those games against the Bills this weekend. If they are for real, they get back to .500 this weekend and ride a three-game winning streak into the biggest game of the season on the road against Jacksonville next week.  Make Josh Allen eat grass. I want to see J.J. Watt set up a tent and a campfire in the backfield this weekend. This front seven should DOMINATE Sunday in what is hopefully a statement game for the Texans at home. Here are four must watch games other than the Texans we must pay attention to on Sunday.  

Cowboys vs. Jaguars

Without a doubt, this game is a must watch if for no other reason than Houstonians want to see Dallas lose again. But in all honesty, the Cowboys have a stingy defense as the Texans discovered last week.  How does Jacksonville’s running game look? No Leonard Fournette. T.J. Yeldon is playing, but he’s banged up. They literally signed Jamaal Charles off the street this week. An area where Houston can really take advantage next week in Jacksonville is making Blake Bortles HAVE to throw the football. Put them into third and long situations by stopping the run. That’s how you can beat Jacksonville. We’ll see if Dallas can do that to them Sunday.

Ravens at Titans

The second team above the Texans right now is Tennessee.  I do not buy this squad at all as legitimate playoff contenders.  They have got to fall off the cliff at some point right? It could start this week against an angry flock of Ravens coming off a loss in overtime to Cleveland, a game where they failed to score a touchdown.. Houston doesn’t play the Titans again until Nov. 26, however the Titans free fall could take place over the next four weeks. This game against the Ravens, at the Chargers next week, at Dallas the following week and then home for New England.  Texans fans should be waving the purple flag this weekend high and proud.

Chargers at Browns

If you are being completely honest with yourself as a Texans fan, you are thinking Wild Card is PROBABLY the path into the playoffs. Jacksonville has an elite defense and although I cannot wait to see if they can pull the upset off next week, at this stage in the season the probable path into the postseason is as a five or six seed.  Both the Chargers and Browns are in that situation with Kansas City flying high, and the Bengals in first place in the AFC North. These are two teams right here who could be competing at the end of the year with Houston for a way into the playoffs. I am curious how they stack up against each other. Texans fans want Cleveland to win this game, as they have the worse record of the two and are the worse team in my opinion.

Chiefs at Patriots

I know you have work on Monday. I get it. But go in tired, call in sick, I don’t really care.  But WATCH THIS FOOTBALL GAME. His Highness Brady vs. the next biggest thing. This will be the best game of the weekend, and I hope it ends 38-35.  I don’t really care which way, but if you want to see two offenses to be jealous of as a Texans fan then watch. Butt in couch. Beer in hand.

Oh yea, and raise that beer to one more fact. The Texans after an 0-3 start are ABSOLUTELY still relevant.  Sunday’s don’t suck. Cheers.

 

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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