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.

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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