The Pallilog

Resilient but inconsistent Texans could hang another AFC South banner - or fall apart completely

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Give the 9-5 Texans their due. They're no super team and they're not a superbly coached team, but it is a resilient team. Off the Broncos debacle, taking down a previously hot Titans team in Tennessee was strong. It has the Texans now at least 90 percent likely to win their division for a sixth time in nine years. Four times in six years under Head Coach Bill O'Brien.

I poke fun at the "cute little AFC South Division Champ" banners they keep winning. They have rung increasingly hollow during the O'Brien era with embarrassing home playoff losses to the Chiefs and Colts and the lone win over a Raider squad down to its third string quarterback. Still, four division crowns in six years is proof positive that the football operation, and O'Brien don't stink.

The Texans have beaten the Chiefs, the Patriots, and the Titans. And have lost, at home, to the Panthers and Broncos. A ceiling of mediocre to pretty good at some point should not be accepted as the top end achievement. There seems a very simple standard for judging this Texans season a success. Without a home playoff win Wild Card weekend it's not a successful season. Getting smashed at Baltimore again in the Divisional Round wouldn't make them "losers," but it sure would make them posers not real contenders. Winning AFC South titles means nothing towards real contention.

The only way the Texans can miss the postseason is by losing at Tampa, having the Titans beat the Saints Sunday, then have the Titans come here and win the season finale. That is no impossibility. Maddeningly inconsistent teams can lose to anybody, anywhere.

Bucs on a roll

The Buccaneers have won four in a row to get to 7-7. Grade the streak on a curve. They've beaten the Falcons, Jaguars, Colts, and Lions. Combined record for those four: 19-36-1. The Bucs have two Pro Bowl wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. In a huge break for the Texans they're both out with hamstring injuries.

Bucs' quarterback Jameis Winston has had an interesting season. After an inept start he has come on like gangbusters. Winston is 427 passing yards over the last two games from posting just the 12th 5000 yard season in NFL history. Six quarterbacks have done it once, Drew Brees has done it five times. The past two games Winston aired it out for 456 and 458 yards, becoming the first QB ever to go 450+ in consecutive games. Surprising (yes?) that Marino, Moon, Manning, somebody hadn't done it previously.

Only NFL MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson has thrown more touchdown passes this season (33 to 30), no one is within five interceptions of the 24 Winston has thrown. The last quarterback to throw even 22 picks in a season was Eli Manning in 2013. If the Ravens clinch the top AFC playoff seed this weekend, Jackson certainly sits out the regular season finale. That would give Winston a chance to wind up leading the NFL in both TD passes and INTs. Name the last guy to do that? Answer below in Buzzer Beaters.

Quirky stat pairing: On their 14 opening drives this season the Texans have mustered a pitiful total of three points. Jameis Winston has thrown an interception on five of the Bucs' 14 opening drives.

Rockets with a big one

What a wild ride of a Rockets' win at the Clippers Thursday night. Early in the third quarter they were down 16. A 40-12 eruption put them up 12 in the fourth. The Clips then countered with a 24-6 run for a six point lead, before the Rockets closed with a finishing 14-5 kick to win 122-117. Russell Westbrook was a human tornado tearing through the Clippers for a season high 40 points. Interest in the Rockets is down, interest in the NBA is significantly down, but the Rockets are again very good. They passed the one third of the regular season completed milepost at 19-9, though their defense is still not of championship caliber. The Rockets have taken a page from the Texans' book of inconsistency. In the eight games before the Clippers, the Rockets faced seven bad teams and a really good Toronto team. They beat the Raptors in Canada, yet lost home games to the Kings and Pistons after their blown 22 point lead fiasco at San Antonio. Exasperating for die hard Rocket fans, but it's much better to have a team that has some confounding losses but shows a clear ability to beat elite teams than to be able to beat the scrubs but look like second class citizens versus the elite.

Buzzer Beaters


1. Brees led the NFL in 2012 with 43 TD passes and 19 INTs. 2. I have five musts for the 10 greatest NFL wide receivers of all-time list disclosed Friday night: Jerry Rice, Don Hutson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Cris Carter. 3. Worst places to get sent for a bowl game: Bronze-Mobile Silver-Montgomery Gold-Boise

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Houston loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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