Tom Savage sucked less last week. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
A slightly shorter Pallilog entry this week because the tryptophan overdose is making me sleepy…
We know that the Texans as constituted are not a good football team. But Monday night at Baltimore they play a game with legitimate AFC playoff picture implications. That is testimony to the pitiful state of the AFC Wildcard race. The Texans are 4-6. The most likely result is they lose as seven point underdogs and that is that. But the Texans beating the 5-5 Ravens would be an upset not a miracle, and if they pull it off to get to 5-6 their chances at an AFC wild card berth would be as good as any team in the race besides the Titans.
You get one guess as to what team has scored the fewest offensive touchdowns in the NFL this season. Right! The Ravens. Have yourself an extra helping of leftovers. The Ravens have scored a paltry 16 offensive TDs in their 10 games. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco simply isn’t very good. Flacco parlayed one brilliant Super Bowl winning postseason into a six year 120 million dollar contract, and because the Ravens were salary cap-strapped last year they gave him a three year 66 mil extension. Since winning Super Bowl XLVII (47 for those who struggle with Roman numerals) the Ravens have one playoff win. This season Flacco has thrown nine touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Only the Bengals have gained fewer yards this season. Alas, the Texans’ defense comes off being the first NFL team to ever give up three touchdown passes in a game to Blaine Gabbert. With a leaky secondary and a lackluster pass rush the Texans just don’t seem capable of shutting down any offense these days. Their D almost has to play over its head Monday for the Texans to win. Because…
The Ravens have one of the best defenses in the NFL this season, only the Jaguars and Steelers have allowed fewer points. The Ravens have posted three shutouts. Yes those came over the early season punchless Bengals, the Dolphins’ clown show attack, and the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers. The Texans’ offense has much more in common with that hapless trio than it does with the Patriots, Eagles, or Saints. Credit Tom Savage for last week against the Cardinals for the first time looking like he at least belonged in the NFL. A Monday night relapse seems a decent bet.
The Ravens also have one of the best sets of special teams in the league. In the spirit of the holiday season let’s just say the Texans do not and leave it at that.
Tis the season...
...for college football coaches to get fired left and right. In the SEC alone Florida, Tennessee, and Mississippi have openings, with Arkansas and Texas A&M probably joining the list by early next week. Kevin Sumlin’s tenure in Aggieland certainly hasn’t been terrible, but as certainly it hasn’t been very good and is certainly not trending up. The Aggies last won an SEC East game at Kyle Field in October. Of 2015! Unacceptable. A 10 million dollar payoff for Sumlin to not coach A&M the next two years is obviously doable. UCLA just fired Jim Mora and must pay him more than 12 mil to not coach the Bruins the next two years. Sumlin is among the names in the rumor mill for the UCLA job. The team against which his Ags blew a 44-10 lead in losing the season opener. If Chip Kelly opts for the UCLA job over Florida, the Bruins should consider themselves lucky. Well, if paying a college football coach not named Nick Saban six to 10 million dollars per year should ever have the “lucky” attached to it.
Feel the force Luc!
As the Rockets keep rolling through their early season schedule, quite an impressive number posted by Luc Mbah a Moute Wednesday night as they obliterated the Denver Nuggets. The Rockets won the game by 30. In the 26 minutes Mbah a Moute played, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by 57! 93-36 in Mbah a Moute’s time on the court. Extrapolated over a full 48 minute game the resulting wipeout would have been Rockets 171 Nuggets 66. Going back 20 years, Mbah a Moute’s personal +57 for the game is the highest put up by any NBA player.
1. The Rockets actually have a chance to hang with the Warriors in the race for regular season Best in the West. 2. Alabama-Auburn is the college football matchup I’d most like to attend some year. 3. Places with a zero percent chance of spotting me Friday: Bronze-any mall Silver-any mall Gold-any mall
Houston Astros skipper Joe Espada wasted no time this week at spring training by answering one of the most talked about questions of the offseason.
Espada revealed that newly-acquired free agent Josh Hader will be the team's closer and will pitch the ninth inning, with Ryan Pressly working as the setup man.
Bryan Abreu will be tapped to pitch the seventh inning, but it wouldn't shock anyone if he had the best season of the three. But after Abreu, things get interesting in the bullpen.
Who pitches the sixth inning?
Astros GM Dana Brown gave Rafael Montero a vote of confidence, saying he's “legit.”
While we have our concerns about Montero after he finished with an ERA over five last year, there's reason for hope. The nature of relief pitchers halving up and down seasons from year to year could work in Montero's favor.
And with the salary that's already committed to him, Brown will likely give him every opportunity to justify his contract. It will be fascinating to see how Espada deploys him early on. You have to think with the boss man backing Montero, Espada will be on board too.
But if he does struggle, will Espada quickly stop using him in critical situations? The good news is, the team won't often have to turn to him in high leverage situations with Abreu, Pressly, and Hader ready to handle those duties.
Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion about the Astros 'pen, and much more!
Don't miss Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every week on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel!