Every-Thing Sports

Let's examine what the Deshaun Watson factor means for the Texans in 2020

Composite image by Brandon Strange.

It's finally here! Football season is upon us! We've all been waiting around like kids impatiently waiting on Christmas. The NFL will kick off it's 2020 season on Thursday when the Texans visit the Super Bowl champion Chiefs in Kansas City. The Thursday Night Kickoff Special is one of highlights of the NFL season. This will also serve as a test run for fans in stadiums since the Chiefs say they'll have around 20,000 or so fans in Arrowhead. There's a lot riding on not only this game, but the upcoming season. Here's my preview and some thoughts:

The Texans have a significant advantage at QB based on their schedule

With franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson now extended, the Texans can now concentrate on the business at hand: the upcoming 2020 season. Facing the last two league MVPs in the first two games of the season is tough, but the rest of their schedule looks much more manageable. The only other upper echelon quarterback they face after week two is Aaron Rodgers of the Packers in week seven. Ryan Tannehill and Philip Rivers are in their division, but those guys are more Pippen than Jordan. Kirk Cousins and Ben Roethlisberger are the other "close, but no cigar" quarterbacks that the Texans face this season. Watson is better than every quarterback they face except a couple. I can see a 13-3, no less than a 10-6 record from them this season if all goes well. Watson will always make sure the offense will click, but the defense is a bigger question mark. If JJ Watt can stay healthy, McKinney and Cunningham live up to their extensions, and the secondary lives up to their potential, we could be looking at a contender.

NFL preview

The rest of the league will be interesting to watch as well. Can Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs repeat? Will Lamar Jackson and the Ravens take the next step? Which future HOF quarterback will rule the roost in the NFC South? These are all questions we will see play out. However, one of the biggest questions I have is whether or not the NFL will be able to navigate a full season without the hiccups MLB has had as far as the pandemic is concerned? MLB has had several interruptions due to positive coronavirus tests. The NFL is scheduled to play their season as planned, but they canceled the preseason. Also, with the lack of fans (or fans being limited in some stadiums) how will players react? Which rookies, or young players, will step up and make names for themselves? I believe the 49ers will fall victim to the Super Bowl loser trend we've seen over the last few years. Joe Burrow will look better than expected in Cincinnati, if AJ Green stays healthy. Defensive Player of the Year will be a pass rusher. Offensive Player of the Year will be a running back. League MVP won't be a quarterback. This season will be atypical just like everything else. I won't be surprised if a team outside the usual suspects wins the Super Bowl.

There's so much going on right now, it's hard to predict what things will look like. We didn't have a preseason and training camp coverage was limited. There was no fanfare around cut day when teams got down to the 53-man roster. The Texans are in a space in which they could contend for a spot in the Super Bowl if they can get past the boogeymen at the top of the AFC. The team I see surprising people this year is the Browns because I feel they will live up to last year's hype this season. I think we'll see offenses explode given that they tend to get off to better starts than defenses. Could Watson win MVP? Yes, but only if his receivers stay healthy. He has his extension done so that's out of the way. There's nothing holding him back now. Unless you count his head coach. Football is back and I'm ready for it!

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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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