MATT HARAB

Four NFL games (other than the Texans) for Houston fans to keep an eye on

Andrew Luck finally returns to the field. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Football season is upon on us and it’s about darn time. Living in the humidity of Houston the “dog-days of summer” is definitely something I’m happy to see pass us by.  I’m ready to sit on my couch and do nothing but watch football on Sundays, while making fun of my family shoveling snow back east.

There are many reasons to be excited about the Texans this year, exhibit A being DeShaun Watson. The 61% completion, 1,699 yards, 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions while holding a quarterback rating of 103.0 in just 7 games last year before the injury. The 12 touchdowns thrown against the four playoff teams he faced last year.  That was the trailer for what is hopefully the very good movie that is DeShaun Watson’s long career in Houston. I know you’re going to watch the Texans game this week but here are four other games you need to keep your eye on.

Bengals at Colts

Andrew Luck’s best season was in 2014 when he threw for 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns.   Will he get back to that form? That is one of the many fascinating questions that face the 2018 NFL season, another one being of course is DeShaun Watson the real deal?  Two quarterbacks in the same division who have shown us flashes of brilliance in their careers. Two quarterbacks that also have us thinking, is the injury bug going to haunt them for as long as they play in the league?  The Colts have made an effort this past offseason to keep Andrew Luck upright and give his shoulder a chance to relive the glory days Indy fans would love to see return. This is a franchise used to good quarterback play, this is a team historically that has given the Texans fits. Right now it is thought to be Jacksonville or Houston’s division, according to Vegas.  The Jags are +165 and Houston is +195 to win the South, however the Colts might be the sneaky “best bet.” They are the underdog at +550 odds. Sunday we get our first look at the rejuvenated Andrew Luck.

Jags at Giants

Not as easy test for Jacksonville right off the bat. This is the scariest defense in football by a long shot, and one thing to keep an eye on as a Texan fan is how the offensive line for New York handles the front seven for Jacksonville. New York, just like Houston, struggled protecting the quarterback last year and paving consistent holes for the running game. Jacksonville was the only team in the NFL last year to not give up 3,000 total passing yards on the season; they averaged 169 passing yards given up through the air.  The second lowest, Minnesota, gave up 192. That is a big difference from the top team to the second team, and a lot of that had to do with disrupting the quarterback. They also were second in the league in sacks last year. Watch and see how the Giants offensive line handles the pressure, because New York and Houston have similar struggles in that department.

Titans @ Dolphins

I’ll obviously list all the divisional opponent games Week 1. Tennessee's offense took a step back last year, Marcus Mariota in particular.  I think Miami will be horrible this year, and even decent teams beat up on horrible teams. If Tennessee hopes to compete this year, this is a game they win by 10 points even if it is on the road. We’ll get a good look here at possibly two bad teams.  If there is a blow out in this game, the Texans will know if there is competition in Nashville.

Chiefs @ Chargers

The one other division in the AFC that I think is very much up for grabs is the AFC West.  The goal is to make the playoffs this year and move past the first round for Houston. These are two legitimate foes that could stand in their way.  Will Patrick Mahomes’ first year be like DeShaun Watson’s? No, but he is a gunslinger with weapons and a brilliant offensive mind for a head coach in Andy Reid. The Chargers have at least one stud at every positional level on both sides of the ball.  These two teams will compete for the division title out west.

 

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Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After the Mariners came alive late in Monday's series opener to hand the Houston the loss and keep their playoff picture hanging in the balance, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park on Tuesday to try and decrease their magic number. Here's how the middle game went:

Final Score: Astros 6, Mariners 1.

Record: 28-27, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (5-3, 3.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Casey Sadler (1-2, 5.40 ERA).

Both teams trade first-inning runs

The Astros struck first in Tuesday's game, not waiting around until the ninth inning to get on the board. Instead, they jumped out to an immediate 1-0 lead after a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker in the top of the first. The Mariners responded quickly, though, getting a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning before a two-out RBI-double of their own to tie it 1-1.

Astros score five in the sixth

The 1-1 score held all the way until the top of the sixth when the Astros would flip the script from the night prior, taking advantage of some mistakes by Seattle to put up a big inning. First, Michael Brantley started the inning with a solo go-ahead homer to make it 2-1. Then, Kyle Tucker would get his third hit of the night with one out before eventually scoring after a walk and two wild pitches, making it 3-2. With two walks to keep the inning alive and put some insurance runs on base, Martin Maldonado took advantage with a big three-run home run to extend the lead to 6-1.

Valdez finishes seven strong, Astros even series

After allowing the one run in the bottom of the first, Framber Valdez recovered and put together a solid outing on the mound. He allowed just five hits total, two of which came in the first, then back-to-back singles in the fourth and a single in the fifth, while otherwise keeping the Mariners at bay. He would end up completing seven innings of one-run baseball while striking out eight. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 0 HR, 108 P.

After Valdez, Enoli Paredes would take over in the bottom of the eighth, working around a leadoff single to get a scoreless inning to keep it 6-1. In the non-save situation, Josh James would come in for the bottom of the ninth and finish off the win for Houston.

Up Next: The finale and rubber game of this three-game set will start a bit earlier on Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 5:40 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Nick Margevicius (1-3, 5.35 ERA) for the Mariners going against Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.90 ERA) for the Astros.

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