Injuries and hopefully penalties will be gone after the bye week

Credit due to two members of Texans as bye arrives at perfect time

Credit due to two members of Texans as bye arrives at perfect time

Texans offensive lineman Tytus Howard

3 headlines 2 questions and 1 bet heading into the bye week.

Perfect time for the bye week

Bill O'Brien's Texans have been incredibly lucky with the placement of their bye weeks. Every bye week but one has come near the middle of the season while O'Brien has been the head coach.

Injuries is the primary reason the bye week will be important. The Texans should get the following players back after the bye. I say SHOULD not will.

LT Laremy Tunsil

S Tashaun Gipson

CB Lonnie Johnson

CB Bradley Roby

Getting essentially three starters back in the secondary would be humongous for the Texans. Adding Gareon Conley who had some success in two games to Justin Reid and Johnathan Joseph as well as the other depth should provide the defense with plenty of options in the secondary.

I don't expect WR Will Fuller to be back after the bye week. Not quite yet. Though it would be amazing from an offensive weapon standpoint if he was available.

Tytus' Triumphant Return

Tytus Howard made his return to the lineup after missing a few games with a knee injury. Boy was he a welcome sight on the right side. The Jaguars came into the game with the third most sacks in football and they got to Watson just a handful times for the sack. Pro Football Focus had him with zero pressures allowed against the fearsome Jaguars pass rush.

He also was a key in the rushing attack. He can move the pile and wins in the rush lanes. He graded out with his best run blocking game so far according to PFF.

He has been better than anyone could have expected. Especially when he didn't really practice at right tackle, Howard has impressed. The scary part for opposing defenses is he's getting better.

Texans offensive line coach Mike Devlin was very proud of Howard's mentality and what he called a calm about him. He praised Howard and the rest of the line's ability to not have one play stick with them and to move on from it.

Credit to O'Brien? Credit to O'Brien. 

A fellow writer on SportsMap tackled the credit to Bill O'Brien. Jermaine covered quite a bit.

Ultimately, O'Brien's past transgressions make it hard to give him credit but he's been such a better coach this season. He can finally dig deep into his playbook as he has the talent and quarterback to do it. And make no mistake, it is indeed O'Brien's offense.

"This is OB's offense," quarterbacks coach Carl Smith said Tuesday.

If this was O'Brien's second year coaching he would be heralded for cleaning up issues from his first year. Well, this is his second year with a healthy Deshaun Watson. I'm not making excuses for O'Brien, but he's the best version of himself to this point. Read Jermaine's article above.

When will the penalties get cleaned up?

O'Brien was not pleased about the Texans penalties before the snap.

"We've got to fix it," he said. "We have to fix it. We can't keep doing that. I think now that you get into these November, December games, there's a very fine line between winning and losing. There's a slim margin for error and we have to fix the pre-snap penalties."

It was all penalties that had O'Brien worked up later on Tuesday. I attempted to ask him about the scoring drive to start the game and he started in with this comment.

"We got points on that because Deshaun (Watson) made an unbelievable play scrambling to his right and Duke Johnson did a great job on the scramble play and cut to his right and we gained some yards back, and then we hit Duke on a slip screen. The other penalty we got on that drive was we weren't set formationally, so we had a third-and-13 become a third-and-18, threw a slip to Duke to get us back in field goal range. So, I mean, that was kind of a miracle drive just to get a field goal, and we've got to stop doing that. Sorry, I interrupted you. You got me fired up on that question."

The Texans lead the league in penalties before the snap with Laremy Tunsil being the greatest offender with eight false starts. (The second worst offender in football is Jadeveon Clowney. Remember him?)

This shouldn't be an issue going forward, but the Texans have done a decent job with Watson overcoming some penalties. O'Brien is right though. The margins, especially against good teams, will be razor thin. The Colts game is an example where a handful of penalties doomed the Texans.

How true do Dabo's words ring after London?

"That's how you change things, you change the culture, through…for me it's through discipline and recruiting, staffing and all that stuff. For them, it's decision-making, it's who you pick. And I'm just telling you: They pass on Deshaun Watson, they're passing on Michael Jordan. I mean, I don't know what the heck I'm talking about, I'm just an old funky college coach, but Deshaun Watson is the best, by a long shot."

Deshaun Watson has changed everything about the Texans. Hell, he may change everything about the NFL. This is exactly what you expect out of a quarterback. He is doing the same things Patrick Mahomes is doing, but with a tad less fanfare. He's carried an organization for the better part of two seasons and seems poised to do so for year. It really is special to see. He may not be Michael Jordan when it is all said and done, but he can be the Houston football Michael Jordan without a doubt.

I bet the three games after the bye define the Texans season

at Baltimore

vs Colts (Thursday)

vs Patriots

The result and how the Texans play in these will likely determine every bit of what we think about their playoff future and chances in the postseason. They should win three of the last four games at least, maybe all four.

With seven games left, the Texans will likely need to go 5-2 to have a shot at the second spot and a bye. This could be a fun season but only if the next three games shake out in a positive light.

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With both Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers making their way back from surgeries that sideline that Astros pitchers last season, and given the team's thin depth in their starting rotation, Houston fans and media have waited on bated breath for scraps of information to leak out of the notoriously secretive organization regarding their progress.

In a week full of mostly Hurricane Beryl-related bad news, the Astros organization had some discouraging news of their own when manager Joe Espada told the media that Lance McCullers has been shut down from pitching after his arm did not respond well to his latest bullpen session. The team says they are "formulating a plan for what's next."

Another Astros starter making his way back from injury is HOF-bound Justin Verlander. Verlander has been on the IL since June 16th with neck discomfort and, while there was initial hope that JV would only miss a start, his status has become increasingly murky as he is still apparently not close to returning.

Shifting from the health questions of the starters to the performance questions of the bullpen, some Houston fans have voiced concern via social media that Astros big-ticket 9th inning pitcher Josh Hader is not looking like a "shut-down" closer. Hader gave up more home runs in the first week of July (3) as he did the entire month of June (2).

In this week's episode of Stone Cold Stros, Charlie Pallilo and Brandon Strange discuss how the fluid dynamics of Astros pitching is impacting the competitive landscape of the division race. To watch the conversation, just click the video YouTube embedded in this article. To listen to the entire episode on podcast, search "Stone Cold Stros" in your favorite podcast app or click one of the following links.

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