SUPER BOWL PREVIEW

Mahomes vs. Brady: It all comes down to this

Take KC minus the three. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Tom Brady has indisputably had the greatest career of any quarterback in NFL history. He goes for Super Bowl win number seven Sunday. If Kansas City wins to repeat as champs, Patrick Mahomes will have indisputably the greatest first three seasons as a starter in NFL history. Really, Mahomes has that sewn up already. So who are you taking as Brady's Buccaneers become the first team ever to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium?

The health questions favor the Bucs. Their pass rush didn't need much blitzing to give Aaron Rodgers a tough time in the NFC Championship Game. The Chiefs are playing two backup offensive tackles. The Bucs get back wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. who both missed the Green Bay game. The Chiefs could get back wideout Sammy Watkins and running back Le'Veon Bell but neither is as significant as Brown or Winfield.

Brady was atrocious in the second half against the Packers. It's hard to envision Mahomes having an atrocious half. Brady is remarkable and then some for 43 years old but not at the peak of his abilities. Brady's Patriots of the 2003 and 2004 seasons are the last back-to-back NFL champs. Until Sunday. A prediction made with little conviction: Chiefs 27 Bucs 24. If forced to bet using the point spread, KC minus the three. It'll be something if the Bucs win three road playoff games to get to the Super Bowl, then lose on their home turf in the Super Bowl.

Consider this with regard to the Texans. If every NFL franchise was run smartly and made all solid moves, from Monday forward at least one franchise cannot possibly win a Super Bowl any earlier than SB LXXXVII. That's 87. 32 seasons from now. Think the Texans win a Super Bowl sooner than SB 87?

Still not buying the Rockets

It was a fun couple of weeks for the Rockets as they won six in a row, but that did nothing in terms of establishing them as a good team. Apart from their no-show face plant at Oklahoma City Wednesday the Rockets post-James Harden trade have been spunky and fun to watch. That's different from being good. The smartest kid in a class of dumb students isn't smart, he or she is the least dumb. After a good bounce back win in Memphis Thursday night, the Rockets sit with 11 wins 10 losses. Nothing wrong with that given where the Rockets are right now, but exactly zero of their 11 wins have come over a good team.

The Rockets' 11 wins: Kings twice, Magic, Spurs, Pistons, Mavericks, Wizards, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Thunder, Grizzlies. Marshmallow-y soft schedule. Portland when healthy may be quite good, but the Blazers played their loss to the Rockets minus their second and third best players. The Rockets' first half schedule includes zero games against the Jazz, Clippers, Bucks, and Celtics. Their second half schedule has 10 of them. Maybe the Rockets can grow into a good team, but that right now they're a good team? Nah.

But they're a lot better off presently than the 9-14 Dallas Mavericks. No D up I-45 where Golden State dropped 147 points on them Thursday. Owner Cuban can't even pitch a TV show about his team called, say, "Mark Tank." The Knicks own the Mavs unprotected first round pick from the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

Baseball is right around the corner

The Astros' equipment truck rolls into West Palm Beach Friday. Spring training on a "normal" calendar and a 162 game regular season schedule is the plan after the players and owners could not reach agreement on adjustments. That also means no designated hitter in the National League this year, and no expanded playoffs with the format returning to the three division winners and two wild cards in each league. The expanded postseason field of the short 2020 season was the sole reason the Astros were able to make a run almost back to the World Series. To get in this year reclaiming the American League West title from Oakland looks a better (and much more desired) path than a Wild Card. Good news, the A's look markedly worse. The AL West is clearly the weakest division in the AL, which also helps the Astros since 76 of their 162 scheduled games are intradivision.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Super Bowl LV is of course the biggest event of the weekend. Does The Weeknd think he's the biggest part of Super Bowl LV? Did The Weeknd fail spelling in elementary school?

2. A whole week without any new Deshaun Watson/Texans drama/silliness? How did we all survive?

3. Worst Super Bowl winning quarterbacks: Bronze-Doug Williams Silver-Trent Dilfer Gold-Nick Foles

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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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