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NASCAR preview: KC Masterpiece 400

Kevin Harvick is spending a lot of time in the winner's circle. Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the Heartland for the KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Motor Speedway. Last week, Kevin Harvick went on to his fourth win of the season. It was another dominating performance for the 2014 Champion as he went on to lead a race high 201 laps and was able to easily win the first two stages of the race. It was not only another signature performance by Harvick but also by his teammates as well. Both Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch both finished second and sixth also Aric Almirola continued his string of good runs as he finished 11th.

While Bowyer and his team can hold their head up high after a runner-up finish, it was announced on Wednesday that they would be docked 20 driver and owner points for rear-window violations, they will also be fined $50,000 and lose their car-chief Jerry Cook  for two weeks as well.

The biggest surprise of sorts to come out of last weekend was Daniel Suarez. In my last article previewing this race, I stated that Daniel Suarez and his team would be a top 10 or maybe even a top five contender and the Sophomore driver exceeded expectations by finishing third. Suarez was the model of consistency for the most part of the day. He began his weekend with an impressive seventh place qualifying effort and stayed around the top 10 all day. Look for Suarez to continue to ride this new wave of success into Kansas this week as he continues to chip away at his first career win.

Although it was a great day for him and his team, Suarez was also penalized. He too had a rear window violation. Like Bowyer, he will lose 20 driver and owner points, $50,000 and his car chief Todd Brewer will also be suspended as well.

This weekend, we head for Kansas Motor Speedway. This track is another one of NASCAR’s MANY mile and a half intermediate tracks. It was recently just re-configured in 2011, as they repaved the surface and added five more degrees of banking. Like most of its mile and a half predecessors, Kansas is known for long green flag runs and a big emphasis on  pit strategy.

The biggest story of this week is the return of 2003 NASCAR Champion, Matt Kenseth. As most fans know, last year Kenseth was released from Joe Gibbs Racing as they were not able to find enough sponsorship to keep him around. For the beginning of 2018, Kenseth was without a ride until his former boss Jack Roush made the decision to bring him on and replace Trevor Bayne in the number six Advocare/Wyndham Hotels Ford. The 18-year stock car veteran heads to a track where he has had a great deal of success driving for both Jack Roush and Joe Gibbs. He has two victories, seven top fives and 13 top 10s at Kansas. Even though he has a stacked resume here, the situation he is getting into will not be easy. Kenseth will be stepping into a car that is currently 24th in points but Kenseth is one of the best drivers of his time and should have no problem adjusting. Look For Kenseth to be a factor on Saturday.

The favorite this weekend is easily Harvick. This has been probably the best start of his illustrious 17-year career. Not only does he lead the series in race wins but he also has more stage wins than anyone as well. It just seems that Harvick and his team are one step ahead of everyone and now to top it all off they go to another track where they have run well at. Of all drivers, only Jimmie Johnson has a better average finish than him. He has won at this track twice in 2013 and 2016 so he definitely has a knack for this place. Look for him to continue his success this weekend.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Bowyer. This is a race track that is very special to Bowyer seeing how it is his home track and while he has never won here his results here have been pretty solid. Over his 19 starts here Bowyer has six top 10s and two top fives. While he hasn’t been the best driver here in the past, I think that this year is different. After finally ending that 190 race winless streak, Bowyer now has a newfound confidence in his team and his Crew Chief Mike Bugarewicz. Look for the Number 14 Haas-Automations Ford to head for victory lane.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Refrence.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

 

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Let's make a deal. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The NFL trade deadline is less than a week away, and the Houston Texans have a significant decision to make regarding their franchise star, J.J. Watt. The Texans are 1-6 through the first seven games of the season, and the next few years of the franchise seem a bit bleak.

No player or staff member has encapsulated Houston's frustration quite like Watt. Excluding the Texans' victory over the Jaguars, the future Hall of Famer has looked miserable in every post-game press conference. Each week, it's the constant look of despair. And in hindsight, closing the chapter on Watt's career in Houston seems to be best for both parties.

At 31-years-old, the All-Pro defensive tackle should be spending the twilight of his career competing for Super Bowls — not playing for a team who is clearly about to hit the reset button at the conclusion of this season.

By departing from Watt, it would allow the Texans to get a jumpstart on their rebuilding project — one that has the potential to bring back quality draft picks, a young prospect, and clear close to $20 million in cap space.

If they decide not to move on from Watt, the Texans risk putting themselves in a situation where they may miss out on obtaining higher draft picks and strapped for cash heading into the 2021 free agency market. And with one year left on his contract following 2020, the Texans also risk losing leverage in a potential deal if forced into trading Watt come next season.

At this stage of his career, the Texans may not receive a haul for Watt's services but could maximize his trade value by dealing him to a championship-contending team. A move that would give Watt the best chances of adding a championship title to his luxurious resume in return.

With the future of the franchise in mind, here are three potential trade ideas that would be best if the Texans are truly considering moving on from Watt.

Watt returns home to Wisconsin and joins the Packers

Texans receive: 2021 first-round pick and LB Kamal Martin

Packer receive: J.J. Watt

The Green Bay Packers are one of a handful of teams who has a realistic chance to stamp their ticket to Super Bowl LV. Following a win over the Texans on Sunday, the Packers stand first in the NFC North with a 5-1 record and possess one of the NFL's best offensive teams.

Green Bay's offense can compete in a shootout with just about any team in the league, but their defense may be the reason why they fall short of representing the NFC in Tampa Bay come February. They have only accumulated a total of 10 quarterback hits and are currently 30th in the league in pass rush through the first six games. The Packers' lack of ability to get to the opposing team's quarterback could be an immense problem during a playoff game that could feature Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson.

So what do the Packers have to lose by acquiring their Wisconsin native?

The addition of Watt would allow the Packers to add one of the best pass rushers of all-time. Although Watt is nowhere near the player that finished second behind Aaron Rogers for league MVP honors in 2015, he has illustrated that he is still a disruptive defensive lineman five years later.

Through the first seven games, Watt has accounted for 11 pressures, six quarterback hits and three sacks — which would make him Green Bay's second most reliable pass rusher trailing only Za'Darius Smith.

For the Texans, receiving a first-round pick for Watt is self-explanatory and would be the most suitable return for the aging star. However, for a team that is building for the future, the Texans should consider obtaining a young and raw prospect to evaluate.

Kamal Martin, a fifth-round draft selection in 2020, made his NFL debut against the Texans on Sunday and left an exceptional first impression. He recorded six tackles and one tackle for loss in 29 snaps inside NRG Stadium, and could be a building block should the Texans begin to make modifications to their linebacking corps.

Seattle sends multiple draft picks for Watt

Texans receive: 2021 second-round pick and fourth-round pick

Seahawks receive: J.J. Watt

If the Packers do not take advantage of improving their pass rush with Watt — perhaps the Seattle Seahawks will. Both NFC teams mirror each other with a high-powered offense, but a feeble defense may hinder one another from advancing to the Super Bowl. In a deal for Watt to the Seahawks, the Texans would miss out on the chance to acquire a first-rounder, but obtaining multiple picks would be just as prominent.

Seattle's general manager John Schneider is no stranger to taking a significant risk, and appears willing to make any moves that will put his organization closer to their long-overdue second title with Russell Wilson. Perhaps, Watt would be that missing key.

The Seahawks are pretty solid at stopping the run but need a tremendous upgrade in their pass defense. Seattle has given up the second-most passing yards on the season (2,212), and the reason seems to be their inability to get to the quarterback. Seattle has only implemented pressure to the opposing team's quarterback on 20.1% of their dropbacks, while only recording a total of nine sacks.

The Seahawks pass defense may not become elite, but the disruption of Watt on their defensive line could be enough to limit the devastation they have experienced through the first seven weeks of the season.

Watt to the Big Easy for Brees' last dance

Texans receive: 2021 second-round pick and Marcus Davenport

Saints receive: J.J. Watt

Seven weeks into the season, the New Orleans Saints are not sitting near the top of the NFC nor their division when compared to recent years. A bevy of injuries have been attributed to their minor decline this season — mainly to their All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas.

However, the Saints have prevailed through the injury bug to march their way to a 4-2 record. If New Orleans can get healthy during the second half of the season, they will be in the running to represent the NFC in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl LV. But unlike the Packers and Seahawks, this could be the Saints last chance to recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy in what is likely Drew Brees' last dance.

The addition of Watt to the Saints would give general manager Mickey Loomis a chance to create the most disruptive defensive line in the league. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen would be able to shift the five-time Pro-Bowler to the interior — allowing the Saints to trot out a d-line of Watt, Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson.

This trade would give Watt arguably the most help he has ever had on the defensive line — which would allow New Orleans to maximize what is left of his career.

This trade would have the Texans missing out on obtaining a first-rounder, but a sound-round pick would be just as valuable for Watt. However, Houston should consider adding a young prospect in a potential swap, and Marcus Davenport would be their best return.

Drafted in 2018, Davenport is a former first-round talent who can help transition the Texans into the post-Watt era. He has showed promise of a bright future through his first two seasons, but injuries have prevented the 24-year-old prodigy of San Antonio from establishing himself as one of the league's top young talents.

This season, elbow and toe injuries have limited Davenport to just a pair of games in 2020. Although there is an immense concern regarding Davenport's health, the Texans cannot pass on adding a player who has already registered 11.5 sacks and 31 quarterback hits through his first 28 career games.

Coty M. Davis is a reporter for ESPN 97.5 Houston/SportsMap covering the Houston Texans. He is also the co-host of Locked On Texans, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network. Follow Coty on Twitter @CotyDavis_24.

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