The Pallilog

Pallilo's view: Believe it or not, Texans will be in the thick of the wild card race with a win Monday

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.

Buzzer beaters

 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

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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