The Couch Slouch

Norman Chad joins SportsMap with his column on this year's NFL team of destiny

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Editor's note: Norman Chad is a longtime columnist and poker commentator. His Couch Slouch column will appear on Monday mornings. Follow him on Twitter @NormanChad

Exactly 23 years ago to this moment, I was in Jacksonville on an NFL-related business trip. On my first night there, my coworkers asked me to join them for dinner.

"Where we going?" I inquired.

"Hooters."

"Hooters? Really?"

"Oh, yeah," one of the coworkers said. "Get the chicken sandwich. It's awesome."

I got the chicken sandwich; it was not awesome. I quickly ascertained we were not in Hooters for the chicken sandwich.

That was my first and last time at Hooters.

And that was my first and last time in Jacksonville.

But I did not leave the River City without telling myself:

Remember the Jaguars.

So here we are in 2019, and the perpetually disregarded, largely forgotten Jacksonville Jaguars have had a losing record seven of the past eight seasons, including last year's gloomy 5-11 mark good for last place in the AFC South.

But that was then and this is Nick Foles.

Somehow, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to let their franchise quarterback leave the franchise.

Why exactly did the Eagles push Foles out the door?

In two different stints with the team – 2012-14 and 2017-18 – he won 20 of his last 26 regular-season starts. Over the last two seasons, he was 4-1 in the playoffs, including a 41-33 win over the TB12 Patriots in Super Bowl 52 to give the Eagles their only Super Bowl championship.

See ya, Nick.

The Eagles chose to keep likable lughead Carson Wentz, who has a 23-17 record, has never won a playoff game and is likely to reinjure himself walking into a shopping cart at Target.

So long, Nick.

As an aside...

(Column Intermission: Frankly, Helmetgate pales next to Cryotherapygate; apparently, Antonio Brown has problems from head to toe. Does it get any better than the Oakland Raiders receiver's frostbitten feet caused by wearing improper footwear while using a cryotherapy machine in France? My goodness, you go to France for the croissants, for the Eiffel Tower, for the Tour de France, or, if it happens to be 1789, for the French Revolution; you do NOT go to France for cryotherapy. Plus, who enters a cryotherapy chamber with inappropriate footwear? Rookie mistake, man.)

Back to the Jags

The Eagles' loss is the Jaguars' gain, and the Jaguars, my friends, are your NFL Team of Destiny.

The Jaguars lost five games by six points or less last season. Losers lose and winners win – I believe Ralph Waldo Emerson first said this – and Foles is a winner.

He leads by example. Last month, in full pads on a day in which the heat index was 102 degrees, Foles ran 50-yard sprints after practice – 10 of 'em – with every teammate already in the locker room, according to Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Maurice Hayes.

Foles essentially said: To hell with the stifling Florida heat, to hell with the bugs out here the size of defensive linemen, to hell with soft millennial sensibility…I am committed!

Couch Slouch likes the cut of his committed jib.

He is a man of faith – he plans on becoming a pastor – and a man of well-chosen words. Foles even wrote his autobiography last year, "Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds," which critics have compared favorably to my 1993 book, "Hold On, Honey, I'll Take You to the Hospital at Halftime."

With Foles replacing Blake Bortles at quarterback, running back Leonard Fournette healthy again and a rugged defense, the Jaguars might go from worst to first in the AFC South. I'm figuring 9-6-1 and a wild card berth at a minimum, en route to a surprising postseason run.

And if the Jaguars make it to Super Bowl 54, I pledge here and now to return to Jacksonville.

I also pledge here and now to even return to Hooters – well, at least drive past it on my way to Popeyes.

Ask The Slouch

Q. How does the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration resist the urge to name every single hurricane after Stephen A. Smith? (Jeff Hazle; San Antonio)

A. Actually, there is a chance – due to changing White House scientific priorities – that NOAA's offices are no longer even wired for cable.

Q. Why does the NFL still play preseason games? (Terence Barnes; Chicago)

A. Without a sunrise, you cannot have a sunset; without a preseason, you cannot have a regular season.

Q. The R*dsk*ns are looking to replace Trent Williams. Do you think 77-year-old rookie Mitch McConnell is a good fit? He blocks everything! (Dave Bray; Winchester, Va.)

A. Not a good fit: The R*dsk*ns are looking for a left tackle.

Q. Your writing has been dramatically stronger recently. Are you taking performance-enhancing drugs? (Jack Leininger; Spokane, Wash.)

A. No – just Fresca.

Q. If the New York Mets win the World Series, will Bobby Bonilla get a ring? (Tim Reinhart;

Stevens Point, Wis.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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Houston now focused on postseason

Altuve and Correa homer, Astros drop final regular-season game

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With no playoff impact at stake if the Astros won or lost the game, Houston took Sunday's final regular-season game as a chance to get their lineup a few more at-bats before shifting focus to Tuesday's first game of the post-season. Here is a quick recap of the game against the Rangers:

Final Score: Rangers 8, Astros 4.

Record: 29-31, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Wes Benjamin (2-1, 4.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chase De Jong (0-1, 14.73 ERA).

Houston's main bats get a final tune-up

Knowing they'd only have a couple of at-bats to work with, some of Houston's big bats took advantage, starting with Jose Altuve. He crushed a pitch in the top of the first, a solo homer to put the Astros in front 1-0. After the Rangers tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second, Altuve started the third with a walk before moving to third base on a Michael Brantley single, which improved Brantley's season average to .300.

Aledmys Diaz would pick up the RBI on a groundout to score Altuve, putting Houston back in front 2-1. In Correa's last at-bat in the top of the fourth, he extended the lead to 3-1 with a solo home run of his own.

Rangers hand Astros a loss to end the regular season

After getting the early run against Chase De Jong, the Rangers would put together a big inning against him in the fourth. After two one-out singles, Rougned Odor would give Texas their first lead of the day on a three-run homer to make it 4-3.

De Jong would continue to struggle in the inning, getting just one more out while loading the bases, prompting a move to the bullpen to bring in Nivaldo Rodriguez to try and eat up more innings. The Rangers greeted him with a two-RBI single to extend their lead to 6-3 before ending the fourth. Odor would hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, a solo shot to make it a four-run lead at 7-3.

Rodriguez allowed another run in the bottom of the seventh, making it 8-3. Diaz, who drove in a run earlier, would account for another RBI in the top of the eighth, getting Houston's third solo homer of the day. That would make it an 8-4 game, which would go final as the Rangers would win the regular season's last game.

Up Next: Houston's first game of the playoffs will be on Tuesday, with the start time and opponent TBD while the rest of today's games wrap up, and the schedule is announced. Regardless, the Astros are expected to begin that best-of-three series with Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

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