The Pallilog

Postseason advantage goes to Cowboys over Texans

Jason Garret and the Cowboys are a game away from the NFC title game. Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Since the Texans entered the NFL, they have produced the less than grand total of three playoff wins.

Since the Texans entered the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys have produced three playoff wins.

Advantage Cowboys, for the moment at least. While the Texans this weekend perhaps dream about receiving their AFC South championship rings, the Cowboys dream of upsetting the Rams Saturday in Los Angeles and reaching their first NFC Championship game since the 1995 season. Of course the Cowboys have a chance (they're seven point underdogs).

Stats can be more deceiving in the NFL than in the other major sports because teams only play 16 games. But…the Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott was the NFL's leading rusher this season. Nothing deceiving about that, Elliott is outstanding. One guess as to which team ranked dead last in the NFL this season in yards allowed per carry. Kind of a leading question, so right you are! The Rams allowed 5.1 yards per carry.

Here's the stats can be deceiving part. In going 13-3, the Rams were ahead, a lot. When facing teams trying to come from behind against you, your defense is concerned even more than usual with defending the pass and preventing big plays. That can make a defense susceptible to some runs. To what extent that impacted the Rams stats? I haven't done a deep dive on that. But you know Elliott is going to be fed the ball a lot Saturday.

The Rams are rightful favorites, as are the Saints over the Eagles. But I put it at about 40% that next week at least one NFC East team is playing for a trip to Super Bowl LIII.

With most Texans thinking: How 'Bout NOT Them Cowboys.

Mediocre, thy name is Texans

In the Texans 17 seasons, they still have yet to legitimately contend for a significant title. Winning a four team Division five times in eight years is nice little achievement, though anyone proudly wearing a 2018 AFC South champion shirt these days: Weak!

Recovering from an 0-3 start to make the playoffs isn't a throwaway, but twice within a month the Colts slapped the Texans at NRG Stadium. In the end that defines the Texans' season more so than does an 11-5 record built largely off of a marshmallow schedule.

Hubbed by Deshaun Watson, who picked a lousy time for a lousy game throwing the ball, the Texans are in a good position going forward. It's not as if their offensive line can get worse. The o-line and the secondary need major work this offseason. But as opposed to last year, the Texans are equipped with their first round draft choice, and two second rounders, and are among the top 10 teams in salary cap space. Big problem: the Colts also have a one and two twos, and they are number one in cap space.

Texans' General Manager Brian Gaine better nail it over these next several months, or the Texans could face another era of mostly breathing Indy exhaust fumes.

Beard vs. the Freak

James Harden's run of 14 consecutive 30+ point games as been phenomenally impressive. NBA rules and style of play are different, but this James Harden is the best offensive player in Rockets' history, in what really is now an easy call over Hakeem Olajuwon (Moses Malone third). OK, best regular season offensive player in Rockets history.

Harden is right back in the thick of the Most Valuable Player award race. That Harden is definitely again the NBA MVP, no way, as Giannis Antetokounmpo forcefully demonstrated Wednesday night in his Bucks' win at Toyota Center. But if Harden gets it again, check the membership list of the club he'd join as a back-to-back MVP winner: Russell, Chamberlain, Kareem, Moses, Larry, Magic, Michael, Duncan, Nash, LeBron, Curry.

Antetokounmpo turned 24 years old just last month. The "Greek Freak" has carried the Bucks into the weekend with the NBA's best record (29-11). The guy still has no outside shot, sub-wretched 16 percent 3-point shooting this season, but he's still nearly as unguardable as Harden at 26.6 points per game on 58% field goal shooting. He's also averaging almost 13 rebounds per game, and six assists per. And is a versatile defensive force.

Spring fling

Just over a month to the Astros opening the doors at Spring Training. Caesar's this week posted the first bettable over/under 2019 win total numbers. The Astros have the highest number in MLB at 97 ½, 14 higher than second in the AL West (Angels). Last season the 103 win Stros cruised over their number which was 96 ½.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Tom Brady and Philip Rivers have started in the same game seven times. The Patriots are 7-0. 2. The Chiefs this week hit the 25th anniversary of their last home playoff win. 0-6 since. 3. Top 3 picks in a draft of all current NBA players: Bronze-Joel Embiid Silver-Anthony Davis Gold-Giannis Antetokounmpo

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome