CODY STOOTS

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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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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