The Friday Cody Stoots 6 pack

Adrian Peterson is key to Sunday's Texans game

Adrian Peterson is key to Sunday's Texans game
Adrian Peterson will be a tough challenge for the Texans. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

 

1. The Texans injury report couldn't look any better than it does so far this week. Aaron Colvin, Johnathan Joseph, Keke Coutee, and Andre Hal all seemingly have a chance to play against Washington. Zach Cunningham is a longshot for this weekend but trending in the right direction for the Monday night game against Tennessee. If Colvin and Joseph are back, even not at full strength, the secondary could be scary. The safeties have played fantastic this season and if they get help from the corners watch out. 

2. There is a solid argument to be made Alex Smith is one of the least impressive opposing quarterbacks left on the Texans roster. Only Sam Darnold, who's playing poorly now for a bad Jets team, and Blake Bortles are worse than Smith. He's average at best in almost every aspect of his play. He doesn't turn the ball over a ton which is a big positive for a guy who doesn't hit big plays hardly at all. They're not very dynamic on offense either, but, they do enough to get the job done. They can't hang in a shootout but if this game gets muddy and ugly Washington will stay in it. 

3. Adrian Peterson is one of the most impressive athletes in NFL history. His level of play at his age, after his injuries, is incredible. He's fifth in the league in rushing and can still handle a heavy load on the ground. He's likely the best player on Washington's offense and should see a heavy dose of action Sunday to try to stymie the Texans pass rush. He is the type of player that if he gets going the Texans could have to over-correct to stop him and allow Alex Smith some room to make a play. 

4. Titans and Colts in Indianapolis is a game Texans fans should pay attention to on Sunday. The winner is going to be nipping at the Texans heels in the AFC South and both have to come to Houston before the season ends. Andrew Luck has been a fun watch in recent weeks and their offense seems to be plenty dangerous enough to win them games. The Titans regularly surprise, both good and bad, with their performances. They have a win over the Patriots and the Texans, with their backup quarterback against Houston. They also have losses to the Bills and Dolphins. They are hitting their stride on offense and Mike Vrabel has the defense playing well. 

5. With their loss last night, it seems the Packers are unlikely to make the playoffs. They need to overhaul quite a bit of the team in the coming offseason and attempt to maximize Aaron Rodgers' final years. He's one of the most impressive quarterbacks to ever play and the team around him just hasn't been good enough to make noise every year like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady's teams were in their primes. Aaron Jones is a nice piece and their wideouts are pretty good but the defense needs more playmakers and their offensive line regularly disappoints. 

6. Sunday Night Football is one hell of a game and one of the reasons the Packers will have such a tough time maximizing their remaining time with Aaron Rodgers. Mitchell Trubuisky is playing very well and Khalil Mack and the defense have struggled a little but have plenty of ability. The Vikings have stabilized their defense and Kirk Cousins is regularly earning his money. With Dalvin Cook back, this could be one of the most dangerous NFC teams down the stretch. The winner is going to be in the pole position in the NFC North while the loser will look towards week 17 with revenge in their mind in the second matchup between these two. 

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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