Falcon Points

How the Texans will look when they face the Chiefs next week

Composite image by Jack Brame.

A week from tonight, the Texans will open the season the way the last one ended - in Kansas City against the Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

Yes, NFL football is just a week away. There will likely be some Covid scares along the way, and the game will look different in the stands. But in the end, it will come down to the players and coaches, as it always does. For the Texans, it will be a chance to see where they stand right away in comparison to a real Super Bowl contender.

The positive is Houston will enter the season with very few question marks. The lineup is pretty much set on both sides of the ball. That's a good thing, because in the Rona camp, there was not a lot of time for positional battles. Barring last minute injuries, this is how the lineups should look in a week:

QB: Deshaun Watson. The only question here is how good can he be? This should be the year he takes the next step.

OL: The Texans have invested a lot in this unit. Laremy Tunsil is one of the better left tackles in the league, and Tytus Howard was terrific as a rookie until he got injured. He should be even better in Year 2. That should give the Texans plus players at tackle. Max Scharping should improve at guard in Year 2, giving the team potentially three plus players. Nick Martin and Zach Fulton need to be average for this to be the strength of the team.

WR: DeAndre Hopkins is gone, but there is depth and speed here with Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills and Randall Cobb. Even when Fuller's inevitable injured, a Cooks/Stills/Cobb trio should still be effective.

TE: Darren Fells, Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins aren't great, but they aren't bad. Again, there is depth here.

RB: The Texans are married to the David Johnson/Duke Johnson duo, for better or worse. David Johnson hasn't been good since 2016, but maybe he has a big year. Again, not great, but potentially OK.

DL: J.J. Watt will anchor things as long as he stays healthy. Brandon Dunn, Charles Omenihu, Angelo Blackson, Ross Blacklock will all be part of the rotation. There is a lot of potential here, but there is also a high potential for failure, especially if Watt gets hurt.

ILB: Zach Cunningham played very well last year and got paid for it. Bernardrick McKinney is average. Dylan Cole provides depth.

OLB: Again, a lot of averageness. Whitney Mercilus has always just been OK. Brennan Scarlet and Jacob Martin are just OK. Draft pick Jonathan Greenard has a lot of developing to do.

CB: Bradley Roby leads a very average to below average group that includes Gareon Conley and Vernon Hargreaves. Maybe Lonnie Johnson develops in Year 2, but otherwise this is a group that will struggle.

S: Justin Reid is a potential Pro Bowler. Jaylen Watkins and Eric Murray are just guys. The secondary as a whole is a big question mark.

Regardless of how it comes together, these will be the position players who will determine the Texans fate.

And it all starts next week.

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Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

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