Falcon Points

How the Patriots signing of Cam Newton impacts the Texans in the AFC pecking order

Photo by Getty Images.

We start this off with the same disclaimer we will be using for the foreseeable future: If there is a season.

The New England Patriots made a big move Sunday night, offsetting the news of their latest cheating punishment by signing Cam Newton to a one-year deal. It was the rare sports news in a world without much sports.

Newton gives the Patriots a huge boost, if he is even close to healthy. He will also be with the best coaching staff he has ever had. The ability to run gives the Patriots an element they never had under Tom Brady, and quarterbacks with that skill often elevate the running backs they play with. While New England still lacks offensive weapons, the signing shows what Bill Belichick wants his team to be: A run-first, ball control offense bolstered by a terrific defense.

For those quick to write the Patriots off after losing Brady, one thing remained: The best coaching staff in football. They will find the most effective ways to use Newton. And they were very good last year with a diminished Brady.

The big question is what does it mean for the Texans?

After a questionable off-season, it remains unclear where they fit. They are certainly behind Kansas City and Baltimore, part of that second tier of contenders that needs some luck to compete with the big dogs. But the Newton signing might push them down a spot. While still a threat to win their division, a revamped Patriots team adds yet another road block in their path to be better than that.

The division itself will likely come down to a three-horse race with the Phillip Rivers-led Colts, Titans and Texans. All of those teams are in that next tier behind Kansas City and Baltimore. It would not be a shock to see any of them win the AFC South. But could any of them get by the Patriots in the playoffs? And now that Texans-Patriots game, which looked like a Texans win on paper, could easily be a loss, which could impact the AFC South race.

The Titans were able to beat New England in the playoffs last season, but this Patriots team could look like a better-coached, better quarterbacked version of last year's Tennessee team. If Rivers can learn to protect the football, the Colts certainly have a good enough roster to do it, but that is a big if.

As for the Texans? The same questions remain. Can the new additions replace DeAndre Hopkins' production? Can Anthony Weaver improve a defense that was terrible last season and did little to improve in the off-season? Can David Johnson turn back the clock and be an effective running back again? If the answer to all those is yes, then they can compete with anyone not named Chiefs or Ravens.

If not? It's likely the Patriots will remain what they have always been - ahead of the Texans in the AFC.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston gets the best of the Dodgers

Astros behind McCullers Jr. get shutout win in hostile Dodger Stadium

Yordan Alvarez added some big insurance runs against the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Having dropped two of three in San Francisco against the league record-leading Giants over the weekend, the Astros exited an off day on Monday and entered a hostile environment at Dodger Stadium in the first of a two-game series on Tuesday night. With some timely hits and an excellent start from their starter, Houston would grab the win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Dodgers 0

Astros' Record: 65-42, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (9-2)

Losing Pitcher: Walker Buehler (11-2)

Houston scores first as McCullers Jr. out-duels Buehler

After nearly turning the game's very first pitch around for a home run but instead going foul, Jose Altuve still started the game with a single in the top of the first. A double play would erase him, though, as the game remained scoreless into the top of the third. Martin Maldonado led that inning off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch by Walker Buehler, then scored on an RBI double by Michael Brantley, putting Houston ahead 1-0.

Houston threatened again in the top of the fourth, getting two on with two outs, bringing up Martin Maldonado with an empty base, which the Dodgers would use by intentionally walking him to get to Lance McCullers Jr., who grounded out to strand all three runners. He made up for it on the mound, though, out-dueling Buehler, who finished six innings while allowing a run by getting into the seventh scoreless. He would get two outs into that frame while giving up a single and a walk, leaving two on base for Blake Taylor, who came in to get the third out. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 110 P.

Alvarez adds insurance as Astros take the opener in LA

Clinging to the one-run lead in the top of the eighth, Carlos Correa worked a one-out walk to bring Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who demolished a 415-foot two-run homer to add two big insurance runs, extending the lead to 3-0. Kendall Graveman took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth and, despite allowing a leadoff single and hitting a batter, was able to finish a scoreless inning.

With Ryan Pressly on the paternity list, Houston handed the ball to Ryne Stanek to close things out in the bottom of the ninth. He would get the job done, earning the save by retiring the Dodgers in order, giving the Astros the win at the dismay of the fans in Los Angeles.

Up Next: This short series's second and final game will begin thirty minutes earlier on Wednesday at 8:40 PM Central. For the Dodgers, they will get the debut of Max Scherzer (8-4, 2.76 ERA), while Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome