THE PALLILOG

It would be an upset, but Texans have a chance to prove something against the Chiefs

So can the Texans go where they have never gone before, the AFC Championship game?

It was Jim Carrey's Lloyd Christmas character in Dumb and Dumber who said "You're telling me there's a chance." Of course there's a chance the Texans can win Sunday. A great chance? No. The odds peg them with about a 20 percent shot. That sounds about right. With probably 80 percent of that 20 percent attributable to Deshaun Watson.

The Texans win over the Bills was dramatic and exciting, but that they needed a huge comeback, at home, to beat the Bills, does not augur well for Sunday in Kansas City. The Chiefs' offense is better than the Texans' offense. The Chiefs' defense is better than the Texans' defense. The Chiefs' coaching is better than the Texans' coaching, though Chiefs' Head Coach Andy Reid has a litany of bad playoff losses on his resume from his tenure with K.C. and before that his time with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Texans' October win at Arrowhead Stadium is irrelevant toward the infinitely more important rematch. Back then Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes was hobbling, wide receiver Sammy Watkins was out, also out was stud defensive lineman Chris Jones.

So how can the Texans pull it off? Any Given Sunday. One game, you just never know. If the ever delicate Will Fuller can play Sunday, maybe he can help the Texans exploit the absence of injured Chiefs free safety Juan Thornhill. The Texans could play over their heads. The Chiefs could choke, they have lost seven of their last eight home playoff games. Old results don't matter, perhaps unless the Texans start fast and the much-scarred K.C. crowd gets uptight and eats into the Chiefs' homefield advantage.

Logically, the Texans should not win. That doesn't mean the Texans are playing with house money. If they get clobbered, the win over the Bills is rendered mostly a memorable footnote. One near certainty, the Texans will not beat the Chiefs if they score only 19 points in regulation.

The only way to pull off a big upset is to be a big underdog. The Texans have the second part down as nine and a half point dogs. The first part, the big upset? Show us Texans. In the Show Me state. The dream scenario for them is an upset in Kansas City following the Titans bumping off the Ravens Saturday night which would mean a Texans-Titans AFC Championship Game at NRG Stadium a week from Sunday. There's maybe a five percent chance of that happening. Hey, better odds than hitting the Powerball.

Solid start despite setback

Despite getting blown off the court in Oklahoma City Thursday night, at 25-12 the Rockets are having a good first half of the regular season. Though they continue to generate very little buzz. James Harden continues to score at an astounding pace, though Wednesday night in Atlanta his 41 points while shooting 9-34 from the field and 4-20 on three point chucks was nothing to brag about, then Thursday in OKC he was awful in scoring a season low 17 points. In his first game back in OKC Russell Westbrook was the only Rocket to play worth a darn. He poured in 34 points in 34 minutes, albeit with his usual brutal three point shooting (1-6). The Rockets next three games are against losing teams (Timberwolves, Grizzlies, Trail Blazers) before their first game of the season vs. the Lakers.

It's easy being green

Losing Matt Rhule to the Carolina Panthers is a blow to Baylor football, but what a time it is for Bears athletics, the head and shoulders class of Texas right now. An 11 win football season, men's basketball number four in the country, women's basketball number six until the next poll after the Lady Bears blew out number one UConn Thursday ending the Huskies 98 game home winning streak.

Finally, a game

Have you heard the rumor? LSU and Clemson will get around to playing Monday night for the National Championship. It's hard to geaux against the purple and gold clad Tigers. A great side bet would be that the losing school can't refer to its home stadium as Death Valley at any point next season. Clemson had the nickname first.

Buzzer BeatersĀ 

1. The Astros report to spring training in just over a month. Looks like an increasingly good bet that Jeff Luhnow will not be the President of Baseball Operations and A.J. Hinch will not be the Manager. 2. In Big 12 games Shaka Smart is now 31-43. 3. Greatest plays in Houston pro football history: Bronze-Earl Campbell trucking Pro Bowl-er Isiah Robertson (YouTube!) and having the jersey torn from his body in 1978. Silver-J.J. Watt's pick six just before halftime in the Texans' first ever playoff game (and win) eight years ago vs. the Bengals. Gold-Watson's overtime Great Escape and pass to Taiwan Jones vs. the Bills.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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