3 headlines, 2 questions, 1 bet

Plenty to fix as loss resets Texans

Jadeveon Clowney was in the spotlight. Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

The win streak is over but there is still plenty to play for in Houston. The Texans try to restart the streak and I have three headlines, two questions, and one bet for you on this Monday.

"Our first down offense was terrible"

Bill O'Brien isn't wrong about that.

"Our first down offense was terrible," he said Sunday. "I mean, it was awful. We lost yards on first down, I mean, probably between eight to 10 times today."

The Texans saw 34 first downs in this game. They lost yards on seven of those plays and had one pre-snap penalty on first down. They gained no yards on five of those plays. They gained between 1-3 yards five times as well. So, half the Texans first downs went for less than three yards and 12 went for no gain or negative yards. That, is indeed, terrible.

The Colts had one hell of a plan to stop the run on first down and executed it well. The Texans had some success late in the game with rushing the ball, but by then the clock is working against them to a large degree. Credit to the Colts, they made the Texans offensive line struggle in both facets of the game. It was a game film the Texans will want to burn, especially when they had so much success against Cleveland and even the success earlier in the year against Indianapolis.

This just isn't an offense explosive enough to handle playing behind the chains consistently.

Clowney's Bad Penalty, Good Game

People are going to be upset, rightfully so, about the penalty late by Jadeveon Clowney which allowed the Colts to run the clock out and secure their win. It wasn't likely the Texans would stop the Colts, Indianapolis seemed to have the answers on Sunday, but they didn't get the chance. It is a bad moment for a player who can't win in the court of public opinion with Texans fans.

Bill O'Brien wasn't pinning it all on Clowney.

"JD's a very aggressive player," he said. "He's made a lot of plays for us, we're not going to – we didn't lose the game because of that."

Clowney had a good game though. Make no mistake about it. He was the only player credited with multiple hurries (according to Pro Football Focus) and had many near sacks and tackles for a loss. He drew the running back's attention on Watt's sack and he destroyed an escape lane for Luck on Covington's sack. The way the Texans use Clowney will never earn him eye-popping numbers. He destroys rushing attacks and makes the job of other pass rushers easier.

He's always going to be highly criticized. He's a former No. 1 overall pick who was billed as a pass rushing monster and just doesn't light up the box scores with sacks. Until he puts those up, fans will zero in on the mistakes and what isn't there. It will be an interesting stretch for Clowney and the Texans with free agency looming for him.

Luck the Class of the Division, Again

The Texans very well may never have the best quarterback in the division. Ever. The Colts had Peyton Manning for years and then ended up with Andrew Luck. Despite the emergence of Deshaun Watson, he has a tall mountain to climb to claim the crown of best in the AFC South.

Luck, is again, a superstar at the quarterback position. He's healthy. He's going to finish with career highs, or close to it, in almost every signifigance passing category. I'm also not convinced their team is even that good. Their running back situation is average at best. T.Y. Hilton is the only premier wideout for them. Eric Ebron is a great player with Luck and the Colts. Their offensive line has been very solid this season. The defense hasn't done them a ton of favors but at-times, are good enough. With Luck already paid, and huge cap space this offseason, the Colts will be a tough out in the AFC going forward.

What the hell is going on with Aaron Colvin?

Aaron Colvin signed a four year $34 million deal this offseason with the Texans with $18 million guaranteed. On Sunday, back from injury, he played 10 snaps on special teams. If he is healthy enough to play special teams he is healthy enough to help on defense. The Texans invested in him, one of the bigger free agent contracts in recent memory, and it simply hasn't worked out. Before the injury, Colvin hadn't been good. It isn't like the Texans were perfect in the secondary against the Colts. Surely something Colvin brings to the table could have helped. It is a strange situation and should be worth monitoring. Colvin had plenty to prove getting out of the shadow of the cornerbacks in Jacksonville so I can't imagine he's taking the special teams relegation well.

What are the chances the Texans lose the three seed in the AFC?

Low, but it isn't impossible. The Steelers loss to the Raiders helps a ton in establishing a lead and keeping it. Pittsburgh and Baltimore both have seven wins. The Steelers have games with the Patriots and Saints left while the Ravens take on the Chargers as their lone playoff-bound opponent. Stranger things have happened but with the Jets and Jaguars as two of the remaining opponents for the Texans, it seems likely the Texans could lock up the three seed and avoid the drop to four. Catching the Patriots gets tougher as the Texans will need to play one weekend where they win and New England loses.

I bet Texans handle their business with authority Saturday against the Jets. The Jets are going to fire their head coach at the end of the season. They may fire their general manager as well. They are poorly coached and make far too many mistakes to hang around with a good team. Sam Darnold has been a nice rookie, but he's just that, a rookie. I am not saying I feel like I need the Texans to blow out the Jets to make a statement, but a sound win would go a long way. Something similar to the Cleveland win or event the Miami win would inspire a lot of people who were skeptical of the win streak.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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