4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

Divisional Round headaches, and World Power Rankings of the Week

So the Houston Texans made it to the second round of the playoffs again. Pretty exciting stuff, as long as you don't factor any history into it.

If you're like me, you can't help but peer ahead to the weekend ahead without at least one eyebrow raised in anxiety.

Vegas be damned, I'm not even talking about the odds. A team with a QB like Deshaun Watson always has a chance, even when they don't. My concern lies beyond the football field.

The week before New Years I found myself thinking back to where I had spent every New Years Eve for the past decade. It started out fascinating, with locations all over the country and world, but has since been reduced to house parties and ball drops at bars. It's not where but with whom though, right?

So when Deshaun Watson did his best Nightcrawler impression in overtime to set up a first round-advancing field goal, I found myself repeating the same exercise.

Where was I during the Texans' previous divisional games?

JANUARY 14TH, 2017, Texans versus Patriots. WEST ALABAMA ICEHOUSE

I remember filling about three picnic tables up with friends, and my belly full of some of the best tacos in Houston as we all watched Tom Brady dismantle the great Brock Osweiler in a 34-16 slaughter at one of the most iconic watering holes in Houston. As the Patriots rubbed the Texans' face in the dirt, that one friend we all have that runs about a 50/50 shot of ruining the night when they show up...showed up. He arrived in a suit to the ICE HOUSE, asked why there was no liquor at the ICE HOUSE, and threw a tantrum when his sister decided not to go out on the town with him later that night. So I got to watch that unfold, and my distraction was Osweiler throwing a football. Neat.

JANUARY 13TH, 2013, Texans versus Patriots. CABO JOE'S, EL PASO

Memories of my dark days in El Paso have been mostly repressed, and luckily this 41-28 atrocity of a game was one of those same moments. I don't remember too much from New England's first playoff opportunity they had to remind us that we didn't belong at the adult table, but I did some digging and found some Facebook commentary from a much more invested, youthful Paul that I suppose summed it up:

Before the game: "Texans vs. Patriots today. Translation: if a meteor were scheduled to hit El Paso today, I wouldn't use the fallout shelter if it wasn't showing the game." How committed!

After the game: "Love my Texans. Always will. But [EXPLETIVE] you for quitting today. That last drive showed zero heart." How passionate!

January 15, 2012. Texans versus Ravens. ANGELFIRE SKI RESORT

Now this...this was the one that got this entire thought project rolling.

It was 2012 and even younger Paul was in love. Or something. In a genius move, the young soldier left Fort Bliss without a mileage pass authorization to go skiing during the four-day weekend with the supposed lady of his dreams. So they drove to Ruidoso, New Mexico to ski. And then they grew bold, and drove to Santa Fe to ski. And then they thought, "We're basically at Taos, let's go to Angelfire!"

So for no sane or logical reason whatsoever, we traveled to Angelfire Ski Resort--roughly 200 miles beyond the 250 mile limit soldiers were allowed to travel on a four-day weekend without command approval--and skied most of the day. About midway through the day I thoroughly abandoned lady of my dreams on the slopes while she continued skiing in my Mario Williams jersey. The Texans were about to kick off their first divisional round playoff game, and I was going to be there to watch it...even if it was from a bar in a lodge in northern New Mexico.

Baby J.J. Watt did his best that game, racking up 12 tackles and 2.5 sacks, but backup QB T.J. Yates was unable to hold up his end of the bargain. The Texans would lose, and I would go back to coming up with even more dumb ideas:

"What if we went all the way to Colorado?!"

We did, and then we got snowed in. We showed up a day late as a result and the United States Military offered little in the way of mercy. Have you ever swept sand off of sidewalks in the desert for 45-days straight? Asking for a friend.

World Power Rankings of the Week

#5 Dudes writing Tom Brady G.O.A.T. Posts

I'm talking about the ones where they directly address TB12 in posts as if they're directly texting him a pep talk after the loss. He needed that pick-me-up bros, way to go.

#4 Doomsday Preppers

Everyone thought you were crazy, but with what I'm sure you and Reddit both believe is the impending World War 3, the "Told ya so!" deck is truly stacked in your favor this week. So go double check the expiration date on the Vienna Sausages in your panic room, and when you get back, come get one of these crisp high fives I have waiting for you.

#3 The 2018 Boston Red Sox

Reports are coming out that apparently they allegedly cheated, and that gets you on the board since it takes at least some of the heat off of the Astros for a moment.

#2 A full week of Ed Orgeron Sound Bites

This man is a national treasure and needs to be protected accordingly.

#1 Exhibitionism for a cause

Australia is currently experiencing a once-in-a-generation bushfire that has devastated nearly 15 million acres. The tragedy has sparked a worldwide response in the form of volunteering and donations. Now while many celebrities have used their influence to garner awareness for the cause, a young woman in California named Kaylen Ward took a different route.

Ward's deal is simple: ""Every $10 you donate = one nude picture from me to your DM. You must send me confirmation that you donated"

The tweet has been shared over 88,000 times and according to Rolling Stone has raised nearly $500,000 in two days.

Genius.

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Houston looked much more like themselves

Astros return to form in win over Angels at home

Cristian Javier was impressive Thursday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Hoping to avoid spiraling further out of control, the Astros turned the page from their disappointing road trip and the recent stretch of games. They hoped to start this new homestand on a good note, welcoming in the Angels for four games of this eight-game stint at Minute Maid Park.

Houston would get the much-needed win, with their offense coming alive early in the game to put up big innings, which they rode to the victory thanks in part to a great start by Cristian Javier.

Final Score: Astros 8, Angels 2

Astros' Record: 8-10, fifth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Alex Cobb (1-1)

Astros' offense starts clicking early

Houston would grab the early momentum, despite leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. They would get a leadoff double by Aledmys Diaz in the bottom of the second, followed by an RBI triple by Myles Straw to jump in front 1-0. They made it a three-run inning, with an RBI by Carlos Correa then a bases-loaded RBI-walk by Yuli Gurriel, though for consecutive innings would leave three runners stranded on base.

Correa drove in another in the bottom of the next inning, getting an RBI single to push the lead to four runs, then would come in on a two-run single by Alex Bregman, who made it 6-0. That set things up nicely for Cristian Javier, who was on the mound trying to take advantage of the opportunity for another start.

Javier has an electric start



Javier was electric over the first three innings, including getting eight of the first nine outs by strikeout while allowing only a walk and double during that span. He would have longer innings in the next two, but in both cases would keep the Angels off the board, finishing in line for the win. His final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 98 P.

Houston gets the much-needed win

Meanwhile, Houston's offense kept scoring. They pushed the lead two runs further over the fourth and fifth, getting a run in each with another RBI each for Straw and Bregman. With Javier's night done, Bryan Abreu was first out of the Astros bullpen, and despite allowing a controversial two-run home run to Albert Pujols, of all people, that looked to be a foul ball, got through the inning.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the seventh but would get just one out while hitting a batter and allowing a single before Dusty Baker brought in Brooks Raley to face the heavy left-handed part of the Angels lineup. Raley would get through it, sending things to the seventh-inning stretch with the six-run lead intact.

Raley would get another out before Joe Smith would finish that inning in the top of the eighth. Ryan Pressly, who has been starved for work lately with no save opportunities, would close things out in the ninth as Houston would start this series off with a win.

Up Next: Game two of this four-game set will be another 7:10 PM start on Friday night. Andrew Heaney (1-1, 5.65 ERA) will be on the mound for the Angels, while Zack Greinke (2-1, 2.81 ERA) will look to repeat the success of his last start; an eight-inning shutout performance for the Astros.

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