FALCON POINTS

Which team is in worse shape moving forward? The Cowboys or the Texans?

Both the Texans and Cowboys would like to forget the 2020 season. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

We like to think of Texas as the center of the football universe. From Friday night lights to massive college programs to America's Team, Texas is football.

But a funny thing has happened on our way to football arrogance. The major college programs barely register a blip on the national radar anymore. UT is a mess, and A&M is stuck trying to deal with Alabama and a loaded SEC West every year.

And the pro teams are among the worst in football. The Cowboys are still in a lousy NFC East race, but their quarterback is done for the year, the defense is a joke and there is no real hope for the immediate future. It is a huge drop for a team that many considered a Super Bowl contender before the season. And the Texans' woes amid the aftermath and tenure of the worst GM in history, Bill O'Brien, are well chronicled.

How bad is it? Offensively, not so bad. The Cowboys are second in yards, the Texans 10th. In scoring, however, they are 18th and 22nd, respectively, and with Dak Prescott out, it only goes down from here for Dallas.

It's on defense where these two teams are truly awful. Dallas is last in points allowed, Houston 27th. In yards allowed, Houston is 30th and Dallas is 28th. Houston is 32 and Dallas 31 in interceptions.

So who has the better future heading into next season? Let's make a case for both:

CASE FOR THE COWBOYS

The positives: Injuries have decimated the offensive line, once one of the best in the league. If they get Tyron Smith back next year and he is healthy, it makes a huge difference. They will need to make a decision on Dak, whether it is another franchise tag or a long term deal, but he should be back in 2021. They still have skilled weapons on offense in Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper. Fixing the OL and getting Dak back should have this offense where it needs to be.

The negatives: The defense is a long way off from being fixed, however, and they will need to get creative with the cap to bring in any impact free agents. They are in line for a high draft pick, which should give them a shot at a solid player to add with Demarcus Lawrence, who is just 28 years old. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith are still worth keeping. Aldon Smith has been a pleasant surprise after being out of the league since 2015. Everyone else on the unit, especially in the secondary, is a mess. You can't fix that in one year, but they can clean up some of it. Mike McCarthy may or may not be the guy at head coach, and he will have to look for another DC heading into next year.

The bottom line: With draft picks in hand and key players returning from injury, the Cowboys could easily get back on track in 2021.

CASE FOR THE TEXANS

The positives: They have two key positions locked up - quarterback and left tackle. Those are the hardest to fill, so there's that. They can also use a second day pick on a running back and improve instantly there. Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb are serviceable receivers. They are set at tackle with Tytus Howard manning the right side. With a new coach and a new scheme and a Will Fuller replacement, the offense should be pretty decent in 2021. They can clear significant cap space to add a few impact players by moving on from Nick Martin, Zach Fulton, Bernardick McKinney and David Johnson, all of whom are overpaid. And if Watt is gone, that is another $17.5 million. So there will be room to work with.

The negatives: The interior offensive line needs an overhaul. Max Scharping, a solid rookie last year, is nowhere to be found. Maybe a quality OL coach can get the best out of him, but they will still need two more players here and limited draft picks will mean dipping into free agency. The defense is much like the one in Dallas; in need of a complete overhaul. J.J. Watt might be traded; if not, who knows if he will even play in 2021? Bradley Roby is a plus corner. But Justin Reid has regressed, there are no other quality defensive backs on the roster, and they are hamstrung by awful contracts for underperforming players like Whitney Mercilus, Zach Cunningham and Eric Murray. Cutting any of them would be almost pointless based on their cap numbers. With no No. 1 pick, there is no help coming there, either. O'Brien left a massive mess that only a very shrewd GM will be able to fix quickly.

The bottom line: IF they hire the right coach and GM, a lot can be fixed in a hurry. But one of the co-orchestrators of the worst trade in NFL history - Jack Easterby - is still in the organization. If he has significant say, the Texans are in deep trouble. The big question is can Cal McNair make the right calls on coach and GM? If so, things will not be that bleak. If not? It could take years to recover from the Easterby/O'Brien mess.

So who is in worse shape? The Cowboys are clearly closer and have assets to improve. The Texans simply have too many question marks. So the pick here is that the Texans are in worse shape. What do you think?

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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