John Granato

I'm feeling pretty good about our Texans. How about you?

Deshaun Watson looks like Deshaun again. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Halfway through the 2018 season what are we to think of our Houston Texans? Rockets fans might want to take note of how they’re bounced back before they give up on their team. I didn’t think it was possible for a good team to start the season any poorer than the Texans did but the Rockets are starting to make me rethink that.

I went into this season with high hopes for this Texans team. I joke about a16-0 or 15-1 season but I seriously believed that they had a chance at dethroning the Patriots in the AFC. What I saw from Deshaun last season made me think that even with all their flaws that that one guy could make that big a difference.

Tom Brady has never had a great supporting cast. He’s played with one, maybe two Hall of Famers his entire career: Randy Moss and possibly Rob Gronkowski. Otherwise he’s had a bunch of guys. For goodness sake, Jabar Gaffney played a big role with them in their undefeated regular season. After what we saw of Jabar here that was a near miraculous transformation.

I still think Deshaun is special and can take them to the promised land but he needs more help and more consistent coaching. Brady has never had a great offensive line but even he would have a hard time getting anything accomplished behind this line.

Has any team ever put less stock in drafting offensive linemen? Their first overall pick in their expansion draft was tackle Tony Boselli who never played a down for the team. Since then they’ve used a grand total of 3threpicks in the first or second round on the offensive line and one of them was a complete and utter bust: Duane Brown, Xavier Su’a-filo and Nick Martin. That’s it in 17 drafts. Three.

No wonder Deshaun can’t breathe. A lesser man might be dead by now. That he threw for 300 yards in four straight games and is on pace for 4,000 yards passing and 30 touchdowns is a minor miracle.

But we hadn’t really seen the real Deshaun until this past week. Yeah he threw for more yardage in previous games but it just wasn’t the same. For whatever it’s worth he only cracked a hundred in the passer rating twice before last week and then just barely. In the Dolphins game he turned in a 156 which is just 2.3 points shy of perfect.

That was vintage Deshaun if vintage is possible in your second season. After his college career though it feels like we know that the ceiling is the roof (thanks MJ) for Deshaun. And he hit the ceiling last week.

Is it sustainable? Is he back to being superhuman again?

Speaking of MJ, the joke was that the only guy that could keep Michael down in college was his coach Dean Smith. It feels a lot like that with Deshaun now. The only guy who can hold him back is Bill O’Brien.

For whatever reason he wouldn’t unleash Deshaun early on this year. In their first three losses he had him running the same offense Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett ran. At least it seemed that way. Where was the play action? Where were the moving pockets? The bootlegs? The RPO’s? Instead it was boring predictable football and it showed in the standings.

The result? 0-3.

But it wasn’t like there was some magic switch they flipped and voilå - great team. Against Dallas he threw for 375 yards but was beaten to a pulp and scored a grand total of 19 points. Against Buffalo he put up his lowest QB rating of the season and needed a pick six bailout to win. Against the Jags when asked about winning when they didn’t play well we got the infamous Bill O’Brien quote about how hard it was to win in the NFL. “Toughest thing in sports” decried BOB. I agree with him. It’s almost impossible to win when you play like crap.

So it’s not like this five-game win streak has been a thing of beauty. It’s been laborious for the most part but it is five in a row which is better than the alternative and it has quieted a fanbase that was ready to throw BOB to the wolves after Week 3. Is he back in good graces with said fanbase though?

Does anyone believe that he and the team have turned the corner? That they’re a contender in the AFC? That BOB will not revert to his staid and predictable ways the rest of the season? That the offensive line won’t get Deshaun maimed or worse? That the loss of Will Fuller won’t be devastating? That the addition of Demaryius Thomas will be fruitful? That they are good enough at corner to withstand the loss of J-Jo another few weeks? That someone will find Whitney Mercilus because he’s been missing thus far this season? These are all legitimate questions heading into the second half.

Looking at their schedule though, it’s almost impossible to find a loss. After easy trips to Denver and Washington they’ve got three straight home games against patsies, then they’re in New York for the Jets (win), at the Eagles (they’re below average this year, win) and home for the hapless Jags who should be down to 15 players because they killed each other by then (another win.)

That makes 13 straight wins, a division title, a playoff bye, home field advantage throughout (the Patriots and Chiefs look like they’re about to fall apart) and a near guaranteed AFC Championship game at home against said Chiefs or Patriots.

Pat Mahomes is so young he won’t be able to handle the pressure of the moment. Brady is so old he won’t be able to handle the pressure of the moment. Deshaun has been there and done that on the biggest college stage so it’ll be just another game for him.

I’m thinking this team is headed to Atlanta for the city’s first ever Super Bowl appearance. I don’t want to be overly optimistic or get ahead of ourselves but I don’t think the Rams or Saints stand a chance against this Texans team.  

So how should we feel about our Texans at the midway point of the season?

Pretty good I’d say. Pretty good.

 

 

 

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Houston loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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