3 Headlines, 2 Questions, and 1 Bet ahead of the Texans regular season finale.
Winning ugly is better than losing pretty
O'Brien has now won four of the last six division championships.— Cody Stoots (@Cody_Stoots) December 21, 2019
Since 2014, when he was hired, he has won a division title more than Sean Payton, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, and Mike Zimmer.
Of course, that has led to just one playoff win and no byes in first round. #Texans
The Texans won. Yes, it was ugly. Yes, it was a little disappointing. Yes, they probably should have blown out the Buccaneers.
A win is a win, even when it clinches the AFC South.
The Texans are AFC South champs for four of the past five seasons, and now four of the six and as my above tweet indicates, that's not bad.
Week 17 doesn't really matter for the Texans. They need to be ready for the 4-5 matchup and likely the Buffalo Bills.
The frustration is the same issues from games of the past popped up. Consistency on offense is seemingly dead. The in-game management is often times questionable, but has worked out a few times for Bill O'Brien. The defense is leaky. It doesn't feel championship quality. Well, it is AFC South champion quality. But there has to be more to the 2019 season than another banner.
Will Fuller's injury lingers yet again
#Texans speedy WR Will Fuller’s groin injury will keep him off the field in Week 17 and is likely a three-week injury, sources say following tests. Fuller has an outside chance to play in their first playoff game and will likely be available if they win and advance.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 23, 2019
Will Fuller is one of the most important players on this Texans team. He is also one of the most injured players. Fuller hasn't come close to playing a full season in his NFL career since his rookie year. This year soft tissue injuries have ruined his season. Yet again, he's hurt.
The team is so much better with him on the field. Everything is better. Specifically the passing game. That's a problem though. This offense shouldn't be built on success based off a speedy outside wide receiver being available. Bill O'Brien has to use the weapons he has better and so does Deshaun Watson. It is unacceptable for this offense to be so heavily reliant on Fuller's availability.
O'Brien's comments after the game were clear and this is as close to negative he comes at the podium about a player.
"He is a great guy and I love coaching him, but it is hard for him to stay healthy – that's the bottom line. Hopefully we can help him stay healthy because this team is a very good team when we have him in the lineup."
Trying to win games
BOB quote on implications of being locked into No. 4 seed if KC wins: "Any time we take the field, based on what we're all about ... we're about trying to win ... We realize all those things you just said are important factors to take in ... but we need to play to win the game." pic.twitter.com/YgNUuoSo1B— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) December 23, 2019
The Texans will take the field Sunday knowing exactly what spot in the playoffs they are locked into. The Chiefs play in the early game and if they win, they will be locked into the third seed pushing the Texans to the fourth seed.
It is incredible to ask the Texans to prepare for a relaxed game, see the Chiefs accidentally lose, and then try to gear back up for the game and try to get the third seed.
So you either try to win the game that likely doesn't matter or you relax for a week. In a game that doesn't matter, Deshaun Watson and Laremy Tunsil shouldn't play. Neither should DeAndre Hopkins. The numbers game gets funny, but the Texans could manage it.
Health ahead of the Bills should be the the most important thing for week 17.
Angelo Blockson...am I right?
Texans defensive lineman Angelo Blackson has blocked a field goal in back to back weeks. The Texans have won both of those games by three points. You do the math.
The thing that has impressed me about both the blocks is Blackson's ability to find himself in the kicking lane. He's adjusted one of his big paws to be in the trajectory of what the kicker needs to make the field goal. Obviously he has to get that hand free too.
A few colleagues of mine, as well as myself, wondered why Blackson was given the contract he was in the offseason. He has played well and frankly those two blocks have been worth the price of his deal. Bill O'Brien called him a fabric player and it is hard to disagree considering his performance this year.
Can Watt come back? I ask again, can Watt come back
Bill O'Brien didn't feel like talking about J.J. Watt much today. Makes sense. The more mystery, the better. Make the Bills start thinking about Watt. About having to block him with their inexperienced right side of their line. Ultimately the subterfuge might not matter.
Brian Gaine worked here. He hired plenty of people in this building. He now works for the Bills. Gaine will know exactly how well Watt is when the game rolls around.
If Watt can help, he should play. If he can be re-injured seriously it should be up to Watt if he wants to play. You certainly wouldn't want to pass up the chance Watt could come back. There could be something this week with perhaps the activation of his 21-day window to practice.
I bet the Bills are licking their chops to face the Texans
BIG MAN TD!— NFL (@NFL) December 21, 2019
Dion Dawkins hauls in the @BuffaloBills touchdown to tie it up. #GoBills @DDawkins66
📺: #BUFvsNE on @NFLNetwork
Watch now on your 📱: https://t.co/tbGyM1cXB3
How to watch on any device: https://t.co/9oFWSFEujX pic.twitter.com/9ehc5D2TUc
The Bills can absolutely beat the Texans and likely should be favored when the two teams square off in the first weekend of January.
Buffalo brings a terrorizing defense that should smother a Texans passing attack which will be missing Will Fuller. Their offense is suspect, sure, but Josh Allen can exploit the Texans with the deep ball and the rushing attack can do enough. They have run the ball well too.
It is imperative for the Texans fan base's sanity for Houston to win this game. People will again question the whole operation with a loss, but a win would be a step in the right direction. It is the bare minimum for the Texans this year for the season to be considered even remotely a success.
It's been a wild few weeks for the Astros and their fans as owner Jim Crane has whipped out the check book, signing Jose Altuve to a 5-year $125 million extension, and closer Josh Hader to a 5-year $95 million deal.
Despite Crane committing $220 million of guaranteed money, all anyone in Houston can say is, “What about Bregman?”
Astros GM Dana Brown said recently the team plans on making Bregman an offer, but there's not a timetable set right now. So as we patiently wait to see what the future holds for Bregman, we're starting to hear some rumblings from the media about the situation.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale shared his two cents on the matter in his Notebook on Sunday.
The Houston Astros plan to make All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman a contract offer before he hits free agency, but it’s not expected to come close to the $300 million over 10 years it likely will take to keep him.
No Astros player has ever received a contract longer than six years or more than $150 million.
Nightengale basically echoed Brown's statement from last week, which isn't really new information. But saying the contract offer isn't likely to come close to what Bregman is looking for is interesting. While it's good news the Astros are planning on making a run at Breggy, it's definitely bad news for Alex if they only intend to pay him half of what he's looking for.
While not surprising, this does line up with what many have come to expect from the Astros. They don't hand out deals over six or seven years, and they certainly don't offer contracts in the $300 million range. While Bregman could command that on the open market, the idea of paying Bregman more than twice as much as Altuve or Yordan Alvarez seems doubtful at best.
Our best guess is Houston will offer Bregman a deal similar to the one they offered Carlos Correa (5-years, $160 million). And we know how that turned out. Correa moved on and so did the Astros with Jeremy Pena.
32 million dollars a year for 5 years is nothing to sneeze at. But you can't blame Bregman for wanting to cash in this offseason. He turns 30 in March, so this is his best chance to land a 10-year mega-deal if that's his top priority.
Another note from Nightengale caught our attention
The Astros have already sold a franchise-record 22,000 season tickets. If the organization is considering handing Breggy a massive deal, it doesn't hurt to be selling a historic amount of season tickets. The money has to come from somewhere.
At the end of the day, the contract uncertainty doesn't seem to be impacting him negatively. He's still behaving like one of the team leaders. He and his wife Reagan recently helped welcome Josh Hader and his wife to the organization.
Maybe there's still a chance he returns.