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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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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