RIGHTING WRONGS

How a tough schedule and mistakes have cost the Texans

The Texans have another tough opponent on Sunday. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers step foot inside NRG Stadium on Sunday, it will mark the end to a brutal seven-week stretch for the Houston Texans.

After they opened the season against the Super Bowl champions, the Texans went down a trajectory where they faced four MVP quarterbacks — three of which with Super Bowl titles — and three teams currently leading their respective divisions in six of their first seven games.

The outcome led Houston to a 1-5 record on the season, with the likelihood of adding an extra game in the loss column following Sunday's contest. The Texans have not been the typical sub .500 team despite what the record might show. According to cornerback Bradley Roby, it has been simple mistakes that have prevented the team from adding a few more wins on the season.

"Every time I look at it, it's what we're doing," Roby said. "It's us messing up, or making an M.A., or not being aligned right. It's little things. It's not like we're just going out and getting killed. It's little things we're not doing or adjusting to that's causing losses."

Roby said during his press conference on Thursday that it only takes four or five plays to decide the outcome of an NFL game. But in Houston's case, perhaps just one or two. The Texans have come a play or two away from recording a victory over several of their opponents this season.

In the game against the Titans, the general belief is that Romeo Crennel's failed two-point conversion is what led the Texans to their fifth loss in six tries.

Although Crennel's decision had a significant impact on the final results, Derrick Henry's 94-yard touchdown drive was more demoralizing to the Texans — who were ahead by two entering the fourth quarter. With less than 10 seconds left in regulation, Ryan Tannehill connected with A.J. Brown on a seven-yard touchdown pass to send the game into overtime.

Had they got one of the two stops, the Texans would have come out of Nissan Stadium victorious against their AFC South counterparts.

Three weeks prior in the loss to the Steelers, had the Texans prevented James Conner from finding his way into the end zone late in the fourth quarter, Houston would have recorded their first win of the season inside Heinz Field Stadium in Pittsburgh.

"If we have an opportunity to go out there and win the game and end it right there, then I would do that 100 percent of the time," Tim Kelly said when looking back on the failed two-point conversion against the Titans. "I knew our guys would go out there and execute. Two inches more to the left and I think we're having a different conversation today."

Against Rogers, it is going to be critical for Houston to limit the number of mistakes in an attempt to pull off an upset. In his 15th season, the two-time league MVP winner has aged like fine wine (2011 & 2014). With a QBR of 86.1, Rogers has recorded 1,374 yards with a 13-2 touchdown to interception ratio thus far this season.

"It's my first time going against him, so it's going to be dope just to see him in live-action," Deshaun Watson said. "He's definitely a guy I love to watch, I've been watching since I was young. It's definitely going to be fun to compete with him. We're going to have to score a lot of points because that's what he's going to do. We've got to continue pushing forward. It's going to be fun."

A victory against one of the league's top teams would not only improve their appalling record to 2-5, but it gives the Texans a reason to be optimistic coming out of the bye week with a favorable schedule.

Starting against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 9, the Texans' remaining schedule is nowhere near as challenging as their first seven games. They will only face one former league MVP in Cam Newton come Week 11 against the Patriots, and a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Nick Foles during their Week 14 match against the Bears. As of now, only four of Houston's next nine opponents possess a winning record coming out of the bye.

Can an easier schedule lead to a path where Houston becomes the fourth team in league history to make the playoffs after a 1-5 start? It's possible. But it has to start with the Texans minimizing their on-field mistakes. It's a change that has to begin Sunday against a future Hall of Famer on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.

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The Astros play Game 1 of the ALDS Tuesday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

With a nod to Charles Dickens, October is the best of times (Astros) and the worst of times (Texans and Rockets) for Houston sports fans. At least this October.

October is the one month when all three of Houston’s major sports teams are guaranteed to be in full swing at the same time. It’s possible, if the Astros make the World Series that November will have all three teams in action, too. But let’s not jinx things.

The Astros start their playoff run Tuesday on TBS. Since the Yankees also play that day, also on TBS, we can assume the Astros will get the daytime slot, the Yankees in prime time. Now before Astros fans start screaming east coast bias, it really only applies to TV. Fun fact: no New York Met has ever won an MVP Award, and only one Yankee has won it in the past 37 years – Alex Rodriguez in 2005 and 2007. How’d that work out for him? Most important, a New York team has won the World Series only once in the past two decades – the Yankees in 2009.

The Astros could play as many as 15 more games in October, five in the Division Series, seven in the League Championship Series and three in the World Series before the calendar flips to November.

Meanwhile, the Texans plod on with three more games in October, and the Rockets have 11.

The winless Texans are at home against the Titans at NRG Stadium, on the road against the Jaguars and Raiders.

The Rockets, coming off the worst record in the NBA last season, have three games at home at Toyota Center and eight on the road.

This presents a problem of abundance, an embarrassment of riches, for Houston sports junkies. Who are you going to watch on TV? Which team will you pay to watch in person? Who are you rooting for the most? Whose jersey will you buy?

David Puddy is right, you “gotta support the team,” but who will own Houston this month?

What to do? If it’s true that nothing succeeds like success, and everybody loves a winner – it’s an obvious choice.

The Astros.

The Astros just completed their regular season with 106 wins, second most in franchise history, another American League West title, the best record in the American League and will have home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Even though fans had high hopes for the Astros entering 2022, the team smashed everybody’s expectations. Vegas put the Astros over/under wins at 92 games. The Astros seemingly flew by that number during spring training.

They are the first team in American League history to win 100 games in four of their last five full seasons. Not even Babe Ruth’s Yankees of the 1920s and 1930s did that. This core of Astros has won five of the last six American League West titles. They’ve played in three of the last five World Series. This is a dynasty right before our eyes. We’re witness to greatness. How ‘bout them Astros?

What a season it was. Who could have figured that 39-year-old Justin Verlander, out of action for two seasons after Tommy John surgery, would have a career year, a ridiculously skinny earned run average and the overwhelming pick for the Cy Young Award? Jose Altuve would return to a .300 batting average, Cristian Javier would lead the team in strikeouts, Yordan Alvarez would finish No. 2 between Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in OPS, and rookie Jeremy Pena would slug 22 home runs, the same number as Carlos Correa? Remember last offseason and cries of “pay the man!” Some of a team’s best deals are the ones they don’t make.

Strap yourself in for an October to remember. The storylines are endless. There’s bad blood between the Astros and the Yankees, between the Astros and Dodgers, between the Astros and boo birds in every stadium not named Minute Maid Park.

It’s going to be fun.

As for the Texans, Deshaun Watson returns to action Nov. 4 against the Texans here at NRG Stadium. And we’ll catch up with the Rockets when the NBA season starts for real on Christmas Day. But until then … play ball!

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