Bengals 37, Texans 31

5 observations from the Texans 37-31 loss to the Bengals

Things can't get much worse for the Texans. Photo by Getty Images.

The Texans and Bengals had little to play for on Sunday, and it showed at times, especially on defense, where neither team was interested in tackling. But it was an entertaining game that came down to the wire. The sad thing is the Texans can't even beat the Bengals. Five thoughts on the Bengals 37-31 win:

1) Where have you been all season, David Johnson? The overpaid running back has been awful all year, but on Sunday, he actually looked like a Pro Bowl running back. Johnson had 12 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown, plus 3 catches for 11 yards and another touchdown. That he did it behind an injury riddled offensive line was all the more impressive. For the first time, Johnson looked like a real running back, with explosive runs. Being able to run the ball was huge for the Texans, as it kept them in the game. He won't be back next season, but he might have earned himself a shot somewhere else.

2) This guy can play for this team next year. Keion Crossen has quietly had a solid season. A special teams ace, he has been forced into coverage duty because of injuries and suspensions. He is one of the few DBs who has been solid in coverage, and did a nice job on A.J. Green. Even when he was beat, he had good coverage. Not a star by any stretch, but unlike a lot of his teammates, he belongs in the NFL. He was one of the few bright spots on a defense that made Brandon Allen look like a Hall of Famer.

3) Deshaun Watson is having a great statistical season. Watson had another good game, with 324 yards and 3 TDs on 24 of 33 passing. He was the second best quarterback on the field on Sunday, but Johnson's big day helped him out. Watson will finish with well over 4,000 passing yards, has 30 touchdowns and only six interceptions. His escapability in the pocket is amazing. But he once again turned the ball over late to end the Texans chances on a sack fumble. Despite that, his team should have a much better record. Allen was better on Sunday, but this season has been a breakout year for Watson. He just needs a lot more help. Having said that, he should not play next week. No reason to get him hurt in another meaningless game.

4) The interior defensive line needs new blood next year. The Texans will have a lot of holes to fill in the off-season, especially in the secondary. But just as glaring is the interior defensive line. They were blown off the ball many times, and run defense starts there. Maybe Ross Blacklock develops next season, but if not, the Texans need a brand new group. The defense in general is a mess, with maybe five players who are worth a damn. None are in the interior.

5) Romeo Crennel needs to be put out to pasture. He is a likeable dude, and he was thrust into a tough situation. But the defense is his baby, and it has regressed year after year. A new scheme, new thoughts and a fresh approach are imperative. It would be hard for this team to be worse. The new staff should thank Romeo for his efforts and wish him luck elsewhere.

The bottom line: This game really meant nothing, except to pad some stats. Deshaun Watson, David Johnson, Brandin Cooks and Brandon Allen did just that.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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