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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Zack Greinke earned his 10th win of the season in Sunday's finale agains the Rangers. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the first two wins of the series under their belt, the Astros entered Sunday looking to take care of business before heading on the road. Despite the Rangers taking the first lead of the day, the Astros responded on offense and defense to erase the deficit to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 3, Rangers 1

Astros' Record: 61-39, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (10-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dennis Santana (0-1)

Greinke, with some help, notches a quality start

Zack Greinke was doing well in the early goings of Sunday's finale. Despite allowing back-to-back singles to start the game, he stranded both runners to finish the top of the first. He followed that by erasing two more runners in the second, starting a stretch of eight straight batters which he would retire to make it through one out in the top of the fifth without allowing a run.

Texas finally added a blemish to his day at that point, getting a solo homer to grab their first lead in weeks. Greinke rebounded from it, sitting down the next two batters to finish the frame, then posted a 1-2-3 sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh, but would end his day with a struggle, loading the bases with no outs on a single, hit batter, and walk. That prompted Dusty Baker to bring in Cristian Javier, who saved Greinke's stat line by getting a strikeout and double play to keep the Rangers from scoring. Greinke's line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 86 P.

Houston grabs the lead

Houston's starter would leave in line for the win, thanks to the work of Cristian Javier, but also some timely offense in the two innings prior. With not much going for them in the first four innings, the Astros tried to take advantage of Chas McCormick being on base in the bottom of the fifth, sending him for a potential hit and run with Abraham Toro swinging.

That turned into two runs, with McCormick able to slow his run as Toro would launch a two-run go-ahead homer to erase the Rangers lead quickly. They extended the lead to two runs in the next inning, with Yordan Alvarez working a walk and then later scoring on an RBI single by Kyle Tucker, making it 3-1.

Astros finish the sweep

After cleaning up the inherited mess in the top of the seventh, Javier remained on the mound in the top of the eighth and made it through a 1-2-3 inning to give him six outs against five batters. With it still a two-run game in the top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save opportunity. He notched it, sitting down the Rangers 1-2-3 to finish the sweep, handing Texas their twelfth straight loss.

Up Next: The Astros will head out west for an eight-game road trip starting with a three-game set with the Mariners kicking off at 9:10 PM Central on Monday. In the opener, Luis Garcia (7-5, 2.86 ERA) for Houston is slated to go opposite Darren McCaughan (0-0, 1.80 ERA), who will make his second career appearance and first start for Seattle.

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