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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Houston drops first of three

Mariners heat up late to take series opener over Astros

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

With the playoffs just a little over a week away, the Astros started their last week of regular-season games in Seattle against the Mariners. A couple of wins against them would secure Houston's spot as the AL West's second playoff participant, with Oakland all but having locked up the first spot sitting six games in front of Houston with seven left to play. Here is a quick rundown of the opener from T-Mobile Park:

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 1.

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

Winning pitcher: Marco Gonzalez (7-2, 3.06 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA).

Bitter end to an impressive start for McCullers Jr.

Both starting pitchers would take a scoreless deep late into Monday night's game. While the Astros were trying to figure out Marco Gonzalez, Lance McCullers Jr. was repeating the success of his last start, a seven-inning two-hit start against the Rangers.

McCullers Jr. allowed a two-out walk in the bottom of the first inning, then proceeded to retire the next fourteen batters before a one-out double in the bottom of the sixth gave the Mariners their first hit of the night. He would go on to finish the sixth before things unraveled in the seventh.

A leadoff walk would result in a run after an error by Jose Altuve left runners on first and second, setting up an RBI-double to give the Mariners the first run of the night and a 1-0 lead. McCullers Jr. looked like he was going to cap off his night by stranding the runners on second and third after back-to-back strikeouts, but before he could get the last out of the inning allowed a three-run home run to blow the game open at 4-0. His final line: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 102 P.

Mariners take the opener

Despite getting several hits against him along the way, Houston could not get anything substantial going against Gonzalez, who would shutout the Astros over eight innings of work. After Enoli Paredes finished the seventh, Brandon Bielak would take over out of Houston's bullpen for the bottom of the eighth.

He struggled mightily, loading the bases with no outs, including a hit batter before allowing a two-RBI single to extend Seattle's lead to 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the top of the ninth, getting a two-out double by Carlos Correa, who would score on an RBI-single by Josh Reddick. That would be too little, too late as the 6-1 score would go final as the Mariners took the opener, keeping the Astros' magic number at two.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will be another 8:10 PM Central start on Tuesday. On the mound will be Framber Valdez (4-3, 3.82 ERA) for the Astros and Ljay Newsome (0-1, 6.35 ERA) for the Mariners.

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