Cody Stoots: 3 headlines, 2 questions, 1bet

Plenty of reasons Texans win streak can continue

Bill O'Brien and the Texans face a tough test Sunday. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

"If you start to take the cheese, you start to drink the Kool-Aid, you’re going to get humbled."

Bill O'Brien's comments when he was asked about the future beyond Cleveland were fantastic. He is right. This league will have you tumbling from the top of the hill in no time. The Texans though have not tumbled yet. They have won eight games in a row and just finished perhaps their most impressive win of those eight. There is still room to get better for this team too which should scare the rest of the NFL. This is the longest win streak in franchise history and the first time a team has started with three straight losses and followed it with eight straight wins. 

The Browns are a team that is playing well now so there is no pushover element like previous Cleveland teams. Baker Mayfield is playing really well right now and they are a team on the rise with two wins in a row. 

"It's definitely understood," O'Brien said when he was asked if he had explained to the team it isn't the Brown of old. "This is a big challenge. Big, big challenge."

Running Wild

The Texans set a franchise record for rushing yards in their win over the Titans with 281 yards. Let's first praise the offensive line. They have really come together as a unit in the back part of this win streak and rarely do they struggle in pass protection and rushing the ball. Monday, they struggled a little in pass protection but they were mauling the Titans on the ground early. This is a unit that week to week can really set the tone, good or bad, for the offense. 

Lamar Miller went nuts in this game. One of this best as a Texans player. You can read more about him being the player of the game here.

Let's talk about one of the most important developments for this team, the return of Deshaun Watson's legs. He had just 74 yards on the ground in the past five games. Those were the five games after he suffered an injury against Dallas. Against Tennessee, he rushed for 70 yards. It can't be understated just how big of a weapon his rushing ability can be. You saw it on the scoring run where the play call was executed to perfection and he went almost untouched for six points. 

"You have to be able to run the ball," Bill O'Brien said. "I know the league and the stats say it is a passing league, and I think we've thrown the ball pretty well...We want to be a physically tough, smart football team. We feel like we have to be able to stop the run and we have to be able to run the ball."

The rushing attack getting going the past few weeks has been a pleasant surprise and has helped ease the sting of D'Onta Foreman's long road back to the field. The Texans still aren't activating Foreman. O'Brien said he is feeling "better" but the team had a "little more time" to make the decision. Foreman can be activated to the roster or put on injured reserve. 

Welcome back, your sacks were your ticket out

Welcome back to two pass rushing presences that have been sorely missed in Christian Covington and Whitney Mercilus. Both had struggled to get going this season but it seems now they're hitting their stride much to the chagrin of opposing offenses. 

Mercilus had been a step slow to start the season but he is starting to ramp up. He has at least a sack in back to back games and is hitting the quarterback regularly. Plenty has been made about how the team is using him as to why his sack numbers and other pass-rushing elements have been down but he has been better the past couple of weeks. The injury in training camp torpedoed his start to the season but he's grooving now. 

Covington played his best game as a member of the Texans against the Titans. It was the first multi-sack game of his career as he had two solo sacks and split one with J.J. Watt. Covington was starting to come into his own last season before an injury ended his season and he's been up and down for most of 2018. He has even been inactive for some of the games despite being healthy. The most important element of his game last night was he brought pressure up the middle. If he is adding that type of rush while Watt and Jadeveon Clowney go to work on the outside it will be tough for opposing quarterbacks to get comfortable. 

Can the Texans count on Keke Coutee's hamstring?

The team can count on Keke Coutee when he is healthy. He has had some really nice snaps this season but from the preseason he has been bothered by a recurring hamstring injury. He missed all of the preseason and the first three games with the injury. Then he played in four games before missing two games. After the bye, he had a big performance against Washington but he left the Titans game again with the hamstring injury. 

He is clearly a playmaker when healthy but he hasn't been healthy all year. The best the Texans can hope for is he can manage this and after a good offseason program, he doesn't have to deal with this injury anymore. He didn't run into this problem at Texas Tech so I imagine it is very frustrating for him to go through as well. DeAndre Carter caught a pass and ran some routes from the slot so if Coutee has this issue continue it seems likely he is the guy that could benefit. 

How good are these Browns?

Good, it would seem. Baker Mayfield has taken to his new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens well and it has showed. The top pick from 2018's draft has tossed seven touchdowns his past two games. Nick Chubb has been a monster since taking over as the lead back. Their defense has held two pretty impressive offenses, albeit Andy Dalton got hurt in one of the game, to tiny scoring outputs. Though they have a slim chance to make the playoffs in the AFC, this season is all about building momentum for this team. Mayfield has helped change the culture and their defense has plenty of talent. This won't be an easy out on Sunday. 

I bet Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield battle in the playoffs more than a few times in their careers. They have matched up once before, in 2015 in the college football playoff. Mayfield had the better game passing by far but Watson's rushing ability and the Clemson defense was the difference maker. They both are a part of the young and talented quarterback crop in the NFL right now. If the Browns rise continues and the Texans can solidify their footing we are in for some epic battles between the two, hopefully in January. 

 

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Houston is falling down the rankings

Tigers pound Odorizzi, Astros with homers as Houston drops fourth in a row

The Astros have not looked great in their last four games. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After watching their hot start of 6-1 cool down to a 6-4 record with three straight losses, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night, looking to do a better job at home against a beatable Tigers team.

Recent games' woes would continue, though, with Houston's pitching getting blasted by the opposing offense and their own bats primarily quiet.

Final Score: Tigers 8, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-5, tied for second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Matthew Boyd (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (0-1)

Astros score first, then Tigers unload on Odorizzi

Houston looked to have something brewing in the bottom of the second, with three singles in the first four batters of the inning, the third an RBI-single by Myles Straw to put the Astros in front 1-0. However, Matthew Boyd would limit the damage, getting back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.

After two easy innings for Jake Odorizzi in his regular-season debut for his new team, he would allow a game-tying solo homer to Akil Baddoo, his fourth of the year, in the top of the third. Detroit struck again in the top of the fourth, getting a leadoff double to set up a two-run go-ahead home run to jump ahead 3-1.

They didn't stop there, getting another two-run bomb later in the same inning; a frame that would take Odorizzi 31 pitches to get only one out before Houston would bring in Bryan Abreu to get the last two outs. Odorizzi's final line in his debut: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 0 BB, 4 K, 80 P.


Detroit continues home run parade, Houston loses fourth in a row

Abreu would hope to do what Luis Garcia did the night before, eat up as many innings as possible after a poor outing from Houston's starter. The Tigers would get yet another two-run homer, though, in the top of the fifth, extending their lead to 7-1, with all seven runs coming over a three-inning span. For good measure, they'd knock one more out with two outs in the top of the ninth, making it 8-1.

As far as Houston at the plate, other than their string of hits to bring in a run earlier in the second, they were getting nothing done against Boyd, who would go six and two-thirds innings. Detroit's bullpen would finish things off, despite an all-too-late sac fly by the Astros in the bottom of the ninth, with Houston dropping their fourth-straight game and continuing to lose ground in the division.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set with Detroit will be an hour earlier on Wednesday, getting underway at 6:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will try to maintain his perfect record and improve upon his two five-inning one-run starts for the Astros, going opposite of Michael Fulmer (0-0, 2.57 ERA) for the Tigers.

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