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'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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