Charlie Pallilo: Upstarts in the NFL, key stretch for Rockets and more

Tom Brady is the proven commodity this weekend. Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

The NFL’s version of the Final Four goes off Sunday, though even the almighty NFL can’t market it as the Final Four. The non-profit NCAA makes hundreds of millions of dollars per year off that trademark. The final four starting quarterbacks standing are Case Keenum, Nick Foles, Blake Bortles,….and Tom Brady. That’s like an SAT question: which of the following does not fit with the other three. Hence, the Patriots are favored to win their sixth Super Bowl of the Brady-Bill Belichick dynasty. The other three franchises have zero Lombardi trophies in their showcases. The Jaguars are one of four franchises never to have played in a Super Bowl (Lions, Browns, and yes, Texans). The Eagles last appearance was Super Bowl XXXIX. For the Vikings it has been 41 years since the Raiders blew them out in Super Bowl XI.

New England and Philadelphia are the home teams but we had colder temperatures in Houston this week than either site will have Sunday. If the Jaguars pull off the upset at Foxborough it’s the most stunning turnaround from stupor to Super in NFL history.  Last season they were 3-13. The Vikings are road favorites as they try to become the first team ever to play Super Sunday on their homefield.

And now the Frank the Tank portion of this week’s column. We’re going streaking!

Big stretch for Rockets

The Rockets finish off their most challenging consecutive home games on the schedule this season Saturday night. They follow up Thursday’s solid rout of vastly improved Minnesota with a second home date this month vs. Golden State. The season series is on the line with the teams having split their first two meetings and there being no fourth meeting to come. Being four and a half games behind the champs means the Rockets’ chance of catching the Warriors for best in the Western Conference is already slim. With a loss that chance dwindles to practically none. The Warriors are healthy and trying for a ridiculous 15th consecutive road win. The all-time NBA record is 16 straight road wins posted by the 1971-72 Lakers; they were a subset of the Lakers’ overall 33 game winning streak. That 33 in a row is the longest winning streak in any major league North American sport. Yes the Lakers won the NBA Championship that season.

Hold those Tigers

One of the more preposterous streaks in sports extended this week in college basketball when Clemson lost at North Carolina. The Houston Texans endured 13 years of uninterrupted futility before they finally won a game over the Colts at Indianapolis. We’ve all heard that expression “the 14th time is the charm.” What about the 60th? The Tar Heels takedown of the Tigers dropped Clemson’s overall record at Chapel Hill to 0-59.  Sure the Tar Heels are one of the greatest programs in college basketball history, their 20 Final Four appearances are 20 more than Clemson has. But 0-59!?! The 87-79 final score marked only the seventh time in the 59 losses that Clemson played Carolina within single digits or to overtime.

Game of the century

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of one of the landmark games in college basketball history. January 20th 1968 the 2nd ranked University of Houston took down #1 UCLA 71-69 before 52,693 at the Astrodome. It was the first nationally televised (via syndication) primetime college basketball game ever. Elvin Hayes poured in 29 first half points, 39 for the game and the Cougars eked out a win over a Bruins’ team that had won 47 in a row. Lew Alcindor played while still recovering from an eye injury and had one of his worst games as a collegian. The Bruins would get the last laugh, destroying UH 101-69 at the Final Four, holding the “Big E” to just 10.

Good idea gone bad

Fun idea for the NBA All-Star Game to have captains choose sides as if on the playground. Lame idea to not televise the picks, the teams will merely be announced after the fact. It’s not as if being the last pick for the All-Star pick-up game makes that guy the clumsy kid nobody wants. LeBron James and Stephen Curry were the top vote getters in each conference so they will draft from among the eight other voted in starters and 14 reserves selected by head coaches. LeBron was the overall vote leader so he’ll have the first pick. Does he nab Curry teammate Kevin Durant? Does Curry then take James Harden over Klay Thompson? Is Kyrie Irving the last pick because LeBron wants no part of him?

Buzzer Beaters

1. I’m no sadist but doesn’t Larry Nassar deserve to die an excruciating painful death?    2. If UH wants just its second NCAA Tourney appearance in 25 years a win over Wichita St. tomorrow would be a huge boost   3. Best sitcoms ever: Bronze-Cheers  Silver-M*A*S*H  Gold-Seinfeld

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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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