THE PALLILOG

Here's what has to happen for the Texans to make the playoffs

It's not over until it's over. Photo by Getty Images.

Texans' playoff hopes live! Snowballs in hell have better survival rates, but purely mathematically: if the Texans win their remaining four games while the Colts and Titans both lose their remaining four, by virtue of having the best divisional record the Texans would be 8-8 AFC South Champs. We're better off buying Powerball tickets.

After Sunday's very creative way to blow a win over the Colts, it is very difficult to ratchet up much interest in their game at Chicago. The Texans are small road favorites over the Bears who six games ago were growling along at 5-1. They are now 5-7. Until they win another Super Bowl the Bears will never live down trading up to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky second overall in the 2017 Draft. Patrick Mahomes went eight spots later to the Chiefs, Deshaun Watson to the Texans two spots after Mahomes. Oops!

Quick: name the starting quarterback with the most regular season wins to his name in Bears' history. The franchise is in its 101st season.

Would you believe Jay Cutler with 51? Jim McMahon is second with 46. 46 wins is Matt Schaub's Texans record win total. Sid Luckman is the Bears' head and shoulders greatest ever QB, but Pro Football Reference does not credit him with his QB wins, and has him with only 61 QB starts among his 128 games played. May be a limited passing attempts thing early in his career, or just an error. Like my error not initially explaining this.

Not so quick: Only one team's winningest QB has fewer wins than Schaub's 46. Name him.

Hint: Buccaneers

Last Hint: He won a Super Bowl.

Answer: Trent Dilfer with 38.

Astros not so hot stove

A quiet start to baseball's virtual winter meetings. Credit to Astros' General Manager James Click for not running crappola up the flagpole when asked about Carlos Correa trade rumors. While of course not directly acknowledging Correa talks, Click talked about needing to plan for more than just 2021. Of course the Astros should listen to Correa offers as he enters his final season before free agency. The Indians are shopping the more accomplished Francisco Lindor as he approaches his walk year. The Astros have much deeper pockets than do the Indians.

With George Springer highly likely a goner and Michael Brantley quite possibly following him out the door, Click's top priority has to be adding a legitimate regular MLB outfielder. Or two. With Yordan Alvarez's knees seeming more those of a 43-year-old than a 23-year-old the Astros would be down to Kyle Tucker, with no quality prospects near the horizon. They have been linked to Jackie Bradley Jr. who is likely departing the Red Sox. Bradley is a better centerfielder than Springer, but would be a huge drop off offensively.

Rocket launch

The Rockets open their preseason Friday night in Chicago. Their traveling circus, errrrr party, is without James Harden as he goes through extended COVID protocols following his irresponsible behavior ahead of the start of practices. A Rockets-Harden divorce seems inevitable, but the Rockets need not capitulate (yet anyway) to Harden's desire to deal him to Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Miami, Milwaukee or wherever else he may deem desirable. I wonder if Harden gets that despite his offensive brilliance suitors are not banging down the Rockets' door. It's not a knock on Harden's historically prolific scoring skills, but on the unique style he was given run of the house to play here that would not cut it in many other places.

If I were the Rockets, I would tell Harden to bring us a reasonable trade. James might be insulted by the number of teams that would have little or no interest, or by what they would deem he's worth giving up to acquire. In the end Harden would be fine with the Rockets taking a sack of nothing to get where he wants. Not how it's going to work.

Bowl season?

What a joke for LSU to "punish" itself by declaring itself ineligible for a bowl game this season as the NCAA investigates rules violations within the Tiger program. The 2019 National Champions stink this year! They are 3-5 ahead of likely loss number six at Florida Saturday. All schools are bowl eligible this year regardless of record. That does not make LSU bowing out honorable.

Other than the Rose and Sugar Bowls which are the playoff semifinal games this season, why should any bowl games be played? Programming for ESPN is the biggest reason. Not a compelling reason. Bowl trips are supposed to reward teams for good seasons. That's been routinely laughable for years with plenty of 6-6 and 7-5 teams, and teams with losing conference records "earning" bowl trips. I'm okay with mediocre teams getting bowl experiences for all the time they put in, but what kind of bowl experiences will players get this year? The big group festivities and outings ahead of games can't be responsibly held. Limited numbers of fans will be allowed into stadia where any are allowed. 11 bowl games have already been canceled.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Quite a Sports Illustrated extended piece on Jack Easterby this week. You can find it at www.si.com

2. U.S. COVID deaths per day are now topping the death toll of the 9/11 attacks.

3. Worst Super Bowl winning quarterbacks: Bronze-Brad Johnson Silver-Nick Foles Gold-Dilfer

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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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