NFL Friday Stoots six-pack: Rodgers, the Bengals and more

Should Aaron Rodgers stay on the sideline this week? Getty Images


The Friday Six Pack has a few thoughts from me from around the NFL and some thoughts on the Texans heading into the weekend. 

1. Aaron Rodgers would be foolish to play this weekend. The Vikings have one of the best defenses in football and will get after Rodgers as much if not more than the Bears. If a few weeks of rest will improve his situation Green Bay needs to take the opportunity. The Packers need to get as close to double-digit wins as possible and risking Rodgers in Week 2 isn't the way to do it. This is the exact reason they tried to upgrade their backup quarterback spot. Now, if for some reason rest wouldn't help Rodgers, play him until his leg falls off. 

2. Can the Bengals with the AFC North? Sure. Will they? Damn, they might! Having watched a good portion of both their games Andy Dalton actually looks like a consistently decent quarterback which hasn't always been the case especially lately. The Ravens certainly aren't winning this division with Joe Flacco at quarterback. The Browns aren't winning either. That leaves the Bengals and the Steelers. Is Pittsburgh going to rally around Le'Veon Bell's absence? Only can help so much. Conner isn't Bell but he sure looked good. 

3. We will all learn a lot more about the Steelers and Browns on Sunday. It won't tell us everything but if Pittsburgh struggles again the Bell absence might be a really tough obstacle. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs put it on the Chargers last week and they travel to the Steel City on Sunday. The other half of the opening weekend tie was Cleveland. The Browns head to New Orleans and face a disgraced Saints team who was embarrassed last week. If Cleveland plays the Saints close they actually might be an improved team. If the Saints blow them out, week one luck. 

4. If the Texans are close to being full strength at wide receiver the Texans might have an interesting roster decision or two to make. It seems they might have kept six wideouts with Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, and Sammie Coates all dealing with hamstring injuries early in the season. Coates was active last game. Fuller talked like he will be back tearing up the Titans like he always does. Coutee seems to be a little further away. Last year against the Titans saw Fuller catch two touchdowns on just four receptions. The Titans will have Adoree Jackson in his second year and Malcolm Butler is new to their secondary. 

5. Rishard Matthews and Luke Stocker are the only pass catchers with more than two years of experience on the Titans roster. The Texans may be short on significant depth at cornerback but Johnathan Joseph and Aaron Colvin are more than equipped to hold down this Titans passing attack on the outside while they figure out the inside attack. Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur comes from the Rams who used a lot of three wide receiver sets. Shareece Wright and the safeties will have to account for the other wideout and Jonnu Smith, the second year player who is expected to get the majority of the tight end time for Tennessee. 

6. Deshaun Watson will showcase right away how much he can improve from week to week. It's been rare we have had to see Watson bounce back or even had the opportunity to ask it of him. He had so many dazzling performances last year there's a chance this is his first real NFL rebound opportunity. Bill O'Brien will be important here in helping Watson along and getting him comfortable with his gameplan early. Things to look for with Watson are quicker decision making to go along with trust in his offensive line. More than a few times Watson broke a pocket good enough to make a solid throw creating the appearance of bad offensive line play. 

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McCullers Jr. out-pitched friend and former teammate Dallas Keuchel on Father's Day. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With three impressive wins to start this series against the once AL-leading Chicago White Sox, Houston tried to extend their winning streak to seven games and finish a four-game sweep on Father's Day. Thanks to a big inning against former-Astro Dallas Keuchel, they would win to keep their hot streak going.

Final Score: Astros 8, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 43-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (6-2)

Rough return to Houston for Keuchel

In his first game against his old squad, Dallas Keuchel would not have a memorable start on the mound for Chicago. Houston made him labor in the first inning, loading the bases though they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Abraham Toro, grabbing the early 1-0 lead. After going down 1-2-3 in the second, they got after Keuchel again in the third.

They ended up batting around against him that inning, including a two-RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, RBI double by Taylor Jones, and bases-loaded RBI-walk by Jose Altuve, which would end Keuchel's day very early and leave the bases juiced. Chicago's bullpen would walk another batter to give Keuchel another earned run, making it a 6-2 game, with all six going against the former Houston ace. Carlos Correa extended the lead to five runs in the next inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to make it 7-2.

McCullers Jr. gives up two over six

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. a nice lead to work with, and he managed it well. He had one big mistake in the early goings of the game, giving up a one-out single in the second to set up a two-run home run, which at the time put Chicago in front 2-1 before Houston's offense came alive. He followed that up with four scoreless innings, erasing a walk in each with some tremendous defense behind him—his final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Astros complete the sweep to jump on top of the standings

Still a six-run game in the top of the seventh, Blake Taylor entered as the first reliever out of Houston's bullpen, tossing a 1-2-3 frame. He continued in the top of the eighth, getting two strikeouts in another scoreless inning. The 8-2 score would go final as Ralph Garza Jr. would enter as the third pitcher of the day to wrap things up with a scoreless top of the ninth to finish the four-game sweep. The win, their seventh straight, paired with an Oakland loss earlier in the afternoon, moves Houston into the top spot in the AL West based on winning percentage.

Up Next: This long stretch of consecutive games continues on Monday in Baltimore, as the Astros pick up a seven-game road trip starting with a three-game set against Baltimore getting underway at 6:05 PM Central. Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) will get the start for Houston, going opposite of Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA) for the Orioles.

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