Weekly recap

NFL Week 16: Good, bad and ugly

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers should have an advantage. Photo credit: Andy Lyons

Week 16 brought more meaningful football. It's amazing to see that there are teams out there that looked to be dead in the water, but still have a shot at the playoffs. Here are my observations:

The Good

-The Packers are going to be a tough out in the playoffs, and it's not for the reason most think. Sure Aaron Rodgers is a perennial All Pro quarterback, but that defense is stout. Between Za'Darious Smith, Preston Smith, Jaire Alexander, and others, that defense is the real deal. If they get homefield advantage, it'll be tough to go to the Frozen Tundra in January and win.

-The Cardinals may be 5-9-1 after their improbable 27-13 win over the Seahawks, but there are several bright spots. Outside linebacker Chandler Jones sacked Russell Wilson four times to bring his league leading total to 19. Running back Kenyan Drake (acquired in a midseason trade from the Dolphins) has proven to be one of the keys to their offense with another near 200 yard multi-touchdown performance. Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray is the next in line to prove great athletes playing quarterback can work at the NFL level.

-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is 42 years old, has played 20 seasons in the NFL, and is firmly in the G.O.A.T. conversation at the quarterback position. Despite his status and all the accolades, he still ran out on a reverse and threw a block. Not a typical quarterback flailing sissy block, but a hit'em low take out the knees type block. Always good to see the fire of guys like that on those plays.

The Bad

-Not often do I say winning is a bad thing, but in the case of the Giants: WHAT THE HELL ARE Y'ALL DOING?!? Why would you win a game against a division rival that'll be picking ahead of you now in the draft? They went from the driver's seat for the #2 overall pick to #5. If Ohio State defensive end Chase Young declares, which I fully expect him to, he would've filled a huge need for the Giants. Now the Skins may get him at #2. That is if the Bengals don't take him #1.

-With two interceptions next week against the Falcons, Bucs' quarterback Jameis Winston will be the inaugural member of the 30/30 club: 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. That's the most awesomely terrible stat line I've seen in quite some time. Not only does a quarterback have to play and start enough games, but he has to stay in games and continue to fling it. He's also 92 yards away from 5,000 on the season. I fully expect him to achieve both, as well as be back in Tampa next year as the starter.

-The Browns "clinched" another losing record with their 31-15 loss to the Ravens. They came into the season as the sexy pick because of their offseason player acquisitions. Acquiring talent doesn't equate to wins. Head coach Freddie Kitchens may be on his way out after one season; so may Odell Beckham Jr is you believe the rumors. Baker Mayfield has seemingly regressed and taken this franchise's chances at emerging from the doldrums with him.

The Ugly

-The NFC East Trash Bowl took place as the Eagles bested the Cowboys 17-9. They are now 8-7 and in control of winning the division and the #4 seed in the heavy NFC. Whoever wins this division will be the worst team in the NFC playoff bracket considering all the others will have at least 10 or more wins and have been far more competitively consistent all year. Salt in the wound: Eagles' tight end Zach Ertz fractured a rib in the win and they're already down several pass catchers.

-The Panthers are now 5-10 after suffering their seventh straight loss in a 38-6 thrashing at the hands of the Colts. Panthers' defensive tackle Vernon Butler was ejected for throwing a punch and gave Colts' fans the finger as he left the field. Their tight end Greg Olsen then tore into how poorly they've been playing in a locker room media scrum postgame. All of this and they have an MVP candidate in Christian McCaffrey aka "Dairy Sanders." (Shot out to Gino McGee in Bias Sports Talk FB sports page for the nickname.)

-MLB free agent pitcher Rich Hill and his wife were arrested after an incident at Gillette Stadium before the Patriots game. Hill's wife apparently tried to enter the stadium with an unapproved bag, was denied and told to leave. When she refused, police arrested her. When Hill tried to prevent her from being put in the car, he too was arrested. Not a good look for a guy who's spent 14 years in MLB. They were also fined $500 each.

Week 17 is setting up to be the big finale of the season the NFL envisioned when they decided to change the schedule to make division games the last games of the season. The flex scheduling also allows the league to place games in similar time slots that involve teams vying for playoff seeding. It'll end in a Sunday Night Football matchup that pits the 49ers against the Seahawks for the NFC West crown and a first round bye on the line. The loser gets to face the NFC East winner on the road. I'm fired up for next week already! Aren't you?

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Houston is back in the win column

McCullers Jr. spins a gem as Astros get a much-needed win over Giants

Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

After getting swept by the A's in Oakland to end a road trip with a five-game losing streak, the Astros returned to Houston to try and get back on track. To do so, they'd need a win against the Giants on Monday night. Here is a quick recap of the series opener:

Final Score: Astros 6, Giants 4.

Record: 7-9, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 6.10 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Logan Webb (1-1, 2.81 ERA).

Houston builds up an early lead

The early goings of Monday's game went very similar to the last time Lance McCullers Jr. took the mound. He would have a terrific first three innings while his offense gave him an early lead. The first run came in the bottom of the second, with Yuli Gurriel reaching base on a one-out double, moving to third on a wild pitch, then scoring on an RBI-single by Carlos Correa.

Correa would take part in a four-run inning in the third, as Houston would score two on a two-RBI ground-rule double by Michael Brantley, another on an error, then Correa's second RBI of the night, a groundout to bring in a run and make it 5-0. Unlike the last start in Arizona, where the roof opened and McCullers Jr. fell apart in the fourth, he was able to make quick work of his opponent for a 1-2-3 frame. As he kept recording scoreless innings, Martin Maldonado added another run to the lead with a one-out solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, making it 6-0.

McCullers Jr. takes a no-hitter into the seventh

While the Astros were building their lead, McCullers Jr. was spinning a gem on the mound. He allowed just one baserunner through the first six innings, which came on a hit-by-pitch. He entered the seventh with a no-hitter in progress, but the Giants would get their first hit of the night to end the no-hit bid.

Regardless, the start was precisely what McCullers Jr. needed to restore his confidence after the disastrous inning he had in his last appearance. He would go on to complete the seventh inning before Houston would go to the bullpen with the large lead in the eighth. His final line: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K 0 HR, 1 HPB.

Houston gets back in the win column despite more struggles by Josh James

Josh James entered out of the bullpen for the top of the eighth but allowed the first run of the night for San Francisco via a solo home run with one out to make it 6-1. He would complete the inning and then return for the top of the ninth. He would have another rocky inning, issuing a leadoff walk before a single and double would make it a four-run game at 6-2, still with no outs in the inning and runners on second and third, prompting another call to the bullpen.

Dusty Baker would bring in his current closer, Ryan Pressly, to try and finish the game, now in a save situation. Pressly would retire the first two batters he faced before allowing a two-RBI single to make it 6-4, but would eventually get the final out to get Houston the much-needed win. With the victory, the Astros moved back into second place in the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Tuesday at 8:10 PM Central. The Giants, working with a fluid rotation, have not yet fully decided on their starter, while the Astros will get another start from Brandon Bielak (2-0, 0.87 ERA) who will look to repeat the success of his five-inning, no-run start in Arizona last week.

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