4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

When it comes to Houston sports, believe the hype

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I'm not going to stop you if you want to keep listening to everyone trash Houston sports. It's pretty easy to find at this point. I'm also not going to spend another week complaining about it or defending it. It's becoming repetitive and lazy.

While all of this is going on, people are forgetting that there is plenty to be excited about with the Houston sports scene.

Small ball with big promise

The Rockets are looking poised to make another strong second half push for the second season in a row, but the difference this time is just how much it's going to bother basketball purists. The past two seasons prior, the Rockets made respectably deep runs in the playoffs on the heels of James Harden, reliable three-point shooting, and a center that was faster than any other traditional center.

So what did the Rockets do? They replaced the fast center completely and pushed all their chips into a full time small ball rotation the likes of which the NBA hasn't really ever seen.

Small ball lineups are nothing new. Complete dedication to a small ball lineup as your primary starting five is. It's weird. It's different.

It's working.

The last time former Rocket center Clint Capela took the floor was a January 29th loss to Portland. Since then, the Rockets have lost two games. TWO. One was a beat down against a short-handed Rockets team, and the other was lost on a last second buzzer-beater. In the last four games since the All-Star Break, the Rockets have won by 30, 10, 11, and 28 respectively.

This small ball approach is built solely with the post season in mind. It would take a crazy turn of events for the Rockets to find themselves outside of the playoff picture, so it shouldn't alarm anyone if the catch a few losses here and there while they finish ironing out what few wrinkles are left. The postseason teams Houston are likely to face rely on one big man or another, and all would be rendered virtually unplayable in a seven game series because they just wouldn't be able to keep up.

The days of Harden dribbling the air out of the ball are over. This is a team that has completely evolved to play through Russell Westbrook and has become infinitely more watchable as a result.

Roughnecks are a tough out

Let's shift our focus to a team that has never lost a game in its entire existence. Yea, it's a corny dad joke, but it's also fun, and true, and I'll wear it out until I can't.

Hyperbole or no, the brand new Houston Roughnecks are 3-0 to start their season and look like the team to beat in the XFL. The last time the Texans started a season 3-0, Matt Schaub had yet to be run out of town, Arian Foster hadn't even considered a professional career in rap, and Andre Johnson was only two years removed from serving Courtland Finnegan a three piece knuckle sandwich.

2012. The year was 2012.

In the XFL, defense just is what it is. The rules are designed to make scoring easier, so it really just depends on the day. From a betting perspective, it's best to take the over until further notice.

On offense though, the Roughnecks are obscene. Houston leads the XFL in offense, with 13 touchdowns scored in the first three weeks. All of this is behind the arm of PJ Walker, who is currently averaging roughly 250 passing yards per game and has accounted for 11 of the aforementioned 13 TDs (10 through the air, 1 rushing). The "MVPJ" shirts are already available to find on the internet.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Cam Phillips is looking more and more like a "one and done" XFLer, especially after last weekend's 8 reception, 194 yard, 3 TD performance. Phillips currently leads the league in receiving yards and touchdowns.

It doesn't matter what league we're talking about, those are fun numbers to watch guys put up. If you STILL haven't given the XFL a chance, you should. It's way too much fun, and they play Dallas this weekend.

This weekend in Houston

It's PACKED.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest (Cook off) - Vegetarians can skip ahead. If you're a real Houstonian, you know that the real party at the rodeo is Cook off. Your Facebook is about to be flooded with friends either searching for or offering wristbands. They're referring to cook off and they're as good as gold if you can get your hands on them. Most of the time a wristband equals all you can eat and, more importantly, all you can drink. If you're invited, get there.

Overwatch League - For the first time since its inception, the Blizzard smash hit video game Overwatch brings their entire e-league into Houston for a weekend of season play. The tournament takes over Revention Center downtown on Saturday and Sunday, and wristbands can be purchased for single day or weekend passes. This is Houston's first opportunity to see their hometown Outlaws take on the competition live without leaving the city. Houston's first match is Saturday vs London, and Sunday vs Toronto.

Houston Dynamo vs LA Galaxy - It's the season opener, and LA is bringing in their latest big name soccer import in Mexico's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. Expect a huge crowd for both reasons.

What to watch this weekend

Rockets at Celtics, Saturday, 7:30 pm (ABC)

Roughnecks at Dallas Renegades, Sunday, 3:00 pm (FS1)

4 Downs of the Week


1st down - A unicorn flying over a double rainbow. Actually, something we all assumed was even less likely:

I could cry right now.

2nd Down - Flat Earther proves that natural selection is a thing


3rd Down - I'm mad, but I want one


4th Down - Apples are (for) good

In a recent interview with Rian Johnson, the Hollywood director provided an interesting bit of trivia to IndieWire. According to Johnson,

"I don't know if I should say this or not, not because it's lascivious or something, but because it's gonna screw me on the next mystery movie that I write. But forget it, I'll say it, it's very interesting. Apple, they let you use iPhones in movies, but, and this is very pivotal, if you're ever watching a mystery movie, bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera. Every single filmmaker who has a bad guy in their movie that's supposed to be a secret wants to murder me right now."

That's right. I've never, ever seen a bad person use an iPhone.

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Jose Urquidy is a surprising choice to start Game 2. Photo by Getty Images.

After a long and tumultuous season, the Houston Astros made it to their 3rd World Series in five years and will take on the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night.

Houston had the better overall regular season record, so games 1 & 2 will be played at Minute Maid Park while games 3-5 will be held at Truist Park in Atlanta.

(If necessary, the final two contests will be played back at Minute Maid Park).

The Braves got this far by defeating the Milwaukee Brewers in the ALDS 3-1 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games (4-2).

Atlanta prevailed with timely hitting from guys like Joc Pederson, Austin Riley and Eddie Rosario performing like an MVP this postseason.

The Braves received solid pitching outings from guys like Ian Anderson, Max Fried and former Astro Charlie Morton.

Atlanta used clutch hitting and solid pitching to make to their first World Series since 1999.

Meanwhile, the Astros made it back to the World Series by defeating the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS 3-1 and out-slugged the Red Sox four games to two.

According to Fox Bet, the Astros are favored at -154 to win the World Series. This is certainly an obtainable goal for Houston's team as they have the experience, hitting and pitching to compete with anyone.

Can Houston's bats stay hot?

The most intriguing matchup this series will be the Astros' bats facing off against this Braves pitching staff. On paper, Houston's lineup seems to be favored for their depth. Jose Altuve at the top of the batting order is always a threat to get on base, and behind him are a plethora of hitters who can drive in multiple runs.

The two best bats this postseason thus far for the Astros are ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez (.522 batting average) and this year's American League batting title champion Yuli Gurriel (.455 batting average). The Cuban natives have lit up pitching and will look to continue their torrid hitting in the World Series.

Other Astros who could be impactful at the plate against the Braves include Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. All three of their batting average's in the .200's respectfully and could come up big at any time.

This lineup is so deep, Atlanta's pitchers won't receive many breaks, if at all this series.

Will the pitching step up again?

Losing Lance McCullers Jr. for the World Series certainly isn't ideal, but not impossible to overcome as proven in the ALCS against the Red Sox.

Framber Valdez pitched the best game of his career when he threw 8 innings and surrendered only one run in Game 3, while Luis Garcia had his best start of the postseason and received the Game 6 win. Both of these pitchers have stepped up in McCullers' absence and will have a huge impact on the series. Valdez is set to start Game 1 on Tuesday night.

If Jose Urquidy and Zack Greinke can also pitch deeper into games, there will be less stress on the bullpen and give the Astros a better chance to stay in games. And we won't have to wait long to see Urquidy, as he will start Game 2, according to Astros manager Dusty Baker.

In an ideal scenario, the Astros' starting pitchers should throw six innings of work and let Kendall Graveman, Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly closeout games as they have all season.

Of course this is the best-case scenario, which doesn't always happen, but other arms can be used to bridge the gaps that include Phil Maton, Yimi Garcia in short relief outings and Cristian Javier and Jake Odorizzi can pitch multiple innings if needed.

Even if a starter has a clunker of a start, this bullpen has done a great job of keeping things close and setting up the Astros for success.

Will this be Carlos Correa's "Last Dance" with Astros?

One can only imagine what is going on in Carlos Correa's mind right now. No one is implying that the free agent to be will not be focused this series, but it's hard to fathom this upcoming offseason isn't a distraction right now.

The 27-year-old shortstop is set to receive multiple offers from different teams and land one of the richest contracts once this season concludes.

If this truly is his final season with the Astros, why not go out on top and win one more title before moving on?

Let's hope this "Last Dance" for Correa is a slow one, so we can all enjoy it a little longer.

Will Dusty's experience prove to be a difference-maker?

Dusty Baker's experience could be beneficial for Houston's chances of hoisting another trophy as he has managed teams in parts of 24 seasons.

He's the only skipper to ever lead five franchises to the postseason and obtain more than 2,000 career victories.

This is the second time he as taken a club to the World Series. He took the 2002 San Francisco Giants to the Fall Classic but lost to the Angels in seven games.

It's safe to assume the 72-year-old seems eager to win his first championship as a manager to cap off a Hall of Fame career.

Final projection

As previously mentioned, the Astros are favored to win this series. If Houston can continue to stay hot at the plate, receive solid outings from their pitchers and just play Astros baseball, there is a good chance this city will have yet another Commissioner's Trophy in their display case.

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