THE PALLILOG

How the Texans could turn things around sooner than you think

This happens every year in the NFL. Composite photo by Jack Brame

The Texans could be a surprisingly good team in 2021. It's unlikely, but that's what would it make a surprise! Feast to famine, famine to feast teams occur every year in the NFL. The league is structured to foster such possibilities. It's not a fluke that since the Texans became the 32nd franchise and the eight four teams per division alignment was established, every season at least four of the 12 (starting this year 14) playoff teams were different from the prior season. This is the 43rd consecutive season in which at least one team went from missing the playoffs the year prior to division champ. The Steelers and Washington Football Team did it this season.

So why not the 2021 Texans? Well, a bunch of reasons, which in part explains why new General Manager Nick Caserio got a six year contract to leave his role as Bill Belichick's right hand man in New England and run his own show for the first time. For several weeks I've been calling 2021 a redshirt year for the Texans' new Head Coach and GM. The thin roster, salary cap mess, and no first or second round draft pick this year make the rags to relative riches story tougher to pull off.

As for the HC gig, the Caserio connection makes many think Patriots' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is the connect the dots hire. Meh. McDaniels sure got a lot less smart with Cam Newton as his quarterback rather than Tom Brady. On the subject of connecting dots, meet Bills' offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. He has the same agent as Caserio and Svengali Jack Easterby. Daboll has done a tremendous job developing third year mobile and strong-armed Buffalo QB Josh Allen into a top five MVP candidate. Daboll would seem a strong pairing with Deshaun Watson.

At the Texans' Caserio introduction press conference, he and Cal McNair should be pressed on why the Texans' are the only one of the six teams presently without a head coach to not book an interview with Chiefs' offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy. No way is Bienemy clearly the right choice, but to not even interview him (if that is to remain the case) is conspicuous.

As for Watson's alleged rumination of seeking a trade…if true, whatever. He's under contract for the next five seasons. The only reason for the Texans for even milliseconds to consider trading Watson is if Jacksonville offered Trevor Lawrence and multiple other high picks. I don't know that the Jaguars would trade Lawrence for Watson straight up.

Failure to launch

The Rockets are out of the gate 2-0 vs. Sacramento, 0-4 vs. everybody else. Now they get 6-2 Orlando followed by consecutive games against the Lakers. The Magic isn't really that good and just lost point guard Markelle Fultz to a torn ACL. The Lakers' roster is better than the one that dismantled the Rockets in the playoff bubble as a small stepping stone enroute to winning the NBA title.

The trade market for James Harden remains soft. Barring the smoking of a giant peace pipe the Rockets best hope re: Harden is that an underachieving team or three get panicky over the next month or two. Off early season returns Daryl Morey's Philadelphia 76ers aren't a great candidate. The Sixers are 7-2.

Other than his Westbrook-ian three point shooting John Wall has generally looked pretty good and Christian Wood like a solid investment but the Rockets still don't have the top end talent of the top contenders. That they may be a little deeper than the last couple of seasons is more an indictment of how weak the bench was those seasons. David Nwaba and Jae'Sean Tate would not be getting significant run with many good teams.

Roll Tide

I'll take Alabama over Ohio St. 38-27 in the National Championship game Monday night, after which Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian leaves to start his head coaching job at Texas with an absurd six year 34+ million dollar contract. That's on the UT tab on top of the 15 million Tom Herman gets to not coach the Longhorns going forward. In six full seasons as a head coach (five at Washington and one at USC) Sarkisian lost a minimum of four games per. Without success at a much higher rate, working for overbearing UT boosters (oh yeah, and the University) certainly isn't a low stress task. Hopefully Sarkisian's problems with alcohol are permanently behind him.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. The Mets landing Francisco Lindor from the Indians makes George Springer winding up a Met seem even more likely.

2. The Astros have still done next to nothing to improve their roster. But that's still true for numerous teams this offseason.

3. Most interesting Wild Card weekend games: Bronze-Steelers/Browns Silver-Bills/Colts Gold-Titans/Ravens

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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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