CODY STOOTS

The Friday Stoots NFL 6-pack: On the Rams, Gruden, Texans and more

Andrew Luck is not impressing so far. Jonathan Ferrey

It's Friday and I'm thirsty for some NFL thoughts and a Texans win. 

1. Who is the next Sean McVay? That's what every team who is firing their coach will be asking in a few months. He is an offensive genius. Let's not overlook the talent he is working with, and there's plenty, but the way he is using them is awesome. They're scoring points almost at will and doing it a ton of different ways from different formations. It isn't different formations just for the sake of showing different things. The Rams actually accomplish things from these different looks. The pass-catching talent compliments itself perfectly and good luck stopping them if they ever get consistently good tight end play. McVay is a breath of fresh air as a head coach at a position that is full of old stodgy arrogant traditionalists. 

2. The Buccaneers and Bears game is an interesting matchup. Both teams have outperformed early expectations and have done it the opposite way many would have expected. The addition of Khalil Mack has covered up some of the very ugly elements of Mitchell Trubisky's game. The top quarterback taken in 2017 has been far from the best from his class and though there are flashes he's miles behind Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. The Buccaneers took one on the chin Monday but Ryan Fitzpatrick showed there is a little magic left in his beard. He has to hold off Jameis Winston from this moment on, and the pressure of Winston's return is real now. The defense could do him a favor and slow down the Bears because scoring on Mack and company will be difficult and might cost Fitzpatrick his job. 

3. The shine is off Jon Gruden and if Baker Mayfield and the Browns head to Oakland and had the Raiders their fourth straight loss it could get ugly in Oakland. Gruden isn't going anywhere but there could be wholesale changes in store and a long rebuild around Derek Carr or without Derek Carr if this season gets nasty. If Gruden and Carr don't show the ability to work together soon it could be curtains for Carr. This would be a good opportunity, one would think, to get their first win. Surely even an Oakland defense, which mysteriously can't rush the passer, can slow down a rookie Mayfield enough to win a game. Right? If not, Gruden will go from high expectations to a high degree of difficulty in making his re-debut in Oakland matter in year one. 

4. On the road in Indianapolis the Texans find themselves staring down another winnable game where they should get their first win. Bill O'Brien isn't in danger of losing his job. At all. He will have to start making significant changes he may not like if this trend continues. Coaches who he has known for long periods of time might be shown the door. Players he's fought for and stood up for might start making business decisions for themselves and not for the team. If the Texans can't defeat Andrew Luck and his dying arm it's hard to see any games you feel good about them winning on the schedule. 

5. KeKe Coutee should make his debut this weekend. The fourth-round pick will need to be a key part of the team as the only true slot presence. This isn't the best situation to make his debut, as there isn't another true slot wideout on the team, but now or never. I prefer to see rookies, especially ones who have a narrow specialty like slot wide receiver, get thrown into the fire. He was a dynamic player at Texas Tech but don't expect eye-popping numbers early. Sure he has practiced well but he still hasn't had true NFL physicality to deal with. That being said, he's the first real slot investment the Texans have made in O'Brien's time and one of the greatest slot players ever, Wes Welker, is on the staff. Hopefully, some quick passing gets Coutee involved and comfortable early. 

6. Andrew Luck's arm is either shot or the Colts are scared to test it. He has some of the least impressive passing stats of his career this season. Yes, they've faced two top ten defenses but even the actual plays he's trying to make stink. He has the lowest amount of air yards in his throws this year. That means his passes travel the least amount on average to his wideouts. Only the injured Marcus Mariota has attempted a lower average of air yards. Luck isn't right, but he's smart. He will make the right decision even if it isn't the most gifted thrower. This is actually a bad matchup for a Texans team which struggles with the quick passing game. An early lead will be imperative in trying to get Luck into big drop back situations and big throws. 

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McCullers Jr. out-pitched friend and former teammate Dallas Keuchel on Father's Day. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With three impressive wins to start this series against the once AL-leading Chicago White Sox, Houston tried to extend their winning streak to seven games and finish a four-game sweep on Father's Day. Thanks to a big inning against former-Astro Dallas Keuchel, they would win to keep their hot streak going.

Final Score: Astros 8, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 43-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (6-2)

Rough return to Houston for Keuchel

In his first game against his old squad, Dallas Keuchel would not have a memorable start on the mound for Chicago. Houston made him labor in the first inning, loading the bases though they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Abraham Toro, grabbing the early 1-0 lead. After going down 1-2-3 in the second, they got after Keuchel again in the third.

They ended up batting around against him that inning, including a two-RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, RBI double by Taylor Jones, and bases-loaded RBI-walk by Jose Altuve, which would end Keuchel's day very early and leave the bases juiced. Chicago's bullpen would walk another batter to give Keuchel another earned run, making it a 6-2 game, with all six going against the former Houston ace. Carlos Correa extended the lead to five runs in the next inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to make it 7-2.

McCullers Jr. gives up two over six

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. a nice lead to work with, and he managed it well. He had one big mistake in the early goings of the game, giving up a one-out single in the second to set up a two-run home run, which at the time put Chicago in front 2-1 before Houston's offense came alive. He followed that up with four scoreless innings, erasing a walk in each with some tremendous defense behind him—his final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Astros complete the sweep to jump on top of the standings

Still a six-run game in the top of the seventh, Blake Taylor entered as the first reliever out of Houston's bullpen, tossing a 1-2-3 frame. He continued in the top of the eighth, getting two strikeouts in another scoreless inning. The 8-2 score would go final as Ralph Garza Jr. would enter as the third pitcher of the day to wrap things up with a scoreless top of the ninth to finish the four-game sweep. The win, their seventh straight, paired with an Oakland loss earlier in the afternoon, moves Houston into the top spot in the AL West based on winning percentage.

Up Next: This long stretch of consecutive games continues on Monday in Baltimore, as the Astros pick up a seven-game road trip starting with a three-game set against Baltimore getting underway at 6:05 PM Central. Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) will get the start for Houston, going opposite of Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA) for the Orioles.

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