THE PALLILOG

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

Texans Deshaun Watson

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 Beaters 

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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Justin Verlander will start for the Astros on Friday night. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston Astros (22-28, third in the AL West) vs. Oakland Athletics (21-31, fourth in the AL West)

Oakland, California; Friday, 9:40 p.m. EDT

PITCHING PROBABLES: Astros: Justin Verlander (2-2, 3.97 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 26 strikeouts); Athletics: Ross Stripling (1-8, 5.19 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 32 strikeouts)

BETMGM SPORTSBOOK: LINE Astros -170, Athletics +142; over/under is 8 1/2 runs

BOTTOM LINE: The Oakland Athletics begin a three-game series at home against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Oakland has a 21-31 record overall and a 12-14 record in home games. The Athletics have hit 65 total home runs to rank third in the AL.

Houston is 22-28 overall and 8-13 in road games. The Astros have a 13-4 record in games when they did not allow a home run.

The teams match up Friday for the fifth time this season. The Astros lead the season series 4-0.

TOP PERFORMERS: Brent Rooker has 11 home runs, 17 walks and 32 RBI while hitting .286 for the Athletics. Max Schuemann is 12-for-35 with a double and two RBI over the past 10 games.

Kyle Tucker leads Houston with 17 home runs while slugging .638. Alex Bregman is 9-for-38 with three home runs and six RBI over the last 10 games.

LAST 10 GAMES: Athletics: 2-8, .225 batting average, 5.25 ERA, outscored by 27 runs

Astros: 7-3, .272 batting average, 3.13 ERA, outscored opponents by 20 runs

INJURIES: Athletics: Esteury Ruiz: 10-Day IL (wrist), Darell Hernaiz: 60-Day IL (ankle), Alex Wood: 15-Day IL (rotator cuff), Paul Blackburn: 15-Day IL (foot), Joseph Boyle: 15-Day IL (back), Freddy Tarnok: 60-Day IL (hip), Luis Medina: 60-Day IL (knee), Sean Newcomb: 60-Day IL (knee), Aledmys Diaz: 60-Day IL (calf), Miguel Andujar: 10-Day IL (knee), Ken Waldichuk: 60-Day IL (elbow), Trevor Gott: 60-Day IL (elbow)

Astros: Oliver Ortega: 60-Day IL (elbow), Bennett Sousa: 60-Day IL (shoulder), Penn Murfee: 60-Day IL (elbow), Luis Garcia: 60-Day IL (elbow), Lance McCullers Jr.: 60-Day IL (elbow), Jose Urquidy: 15-Day IL (forearm), Kendall Graveman: 60-Day IL (elbow)

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