CODY STOOTS: 3 headlines, 2 questions, 1 bet

Return man and returning man stand out for Texans

With Lamar Miller running well, will it impact what happens to D'Onta Foreman? Tim Warner/Getty images

The Texans continue to add to the longest win streak in the NFL and have a chance to be the first AFC team to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday. Here are three headlines, two questions, and one bet about the Texans. 

"I think about today"

Bill O'Brien might be dodging the question and the thoughts about the Texans clinching the AFC South on Sunday, but we don't have to do the same. The Texans need some help to do it Sunday, the Titans would have to fall to the Jaguars on Thursday, but they might have the chance to celebrate at home. 

As with not taking the cheese and drinking the Kool-Aid last week, O'Brien was cautious this week when discussing anything more than the Colts on Sunday. 

"You really have to get some things corrected and you have to quickly turn the page to the next opponent," he said. "That’s the key. Whatever plays that you had yesterday that carry over to what this game might be, you have to learn from that and then you have to really turn your focus to Indianapolis."

The mentality of the Texans has been spot on during the majority of this win streak. Credit the players for believing in O'Brien and the message and credit the message for not changing. Tyrann Mathieu talked about how they looked at themselves after starting with three straight losses. The players deserve the credit and O'Brien will quickly tell you that. He deserves credit too though. The offense has been good enough to great during the stretch and they've handled various elements of adversity well. It's gone from a potential disaster to history-making in short order. 

First interception since return for Hal

Andre Hal hauled in a Baker Mayfield mistake for his first interception since his return to football after beating cancer. He made his season debut against the Jaguars earlier in the season but was sidelined with an injury until after the bye. He is significant depth and experience for a safety unit that already had some serious success under their belts. He also provides experience on special teams as well, O'Brien praised the work he has done on that side of the football. 

Hal wanted to make something very clear: he can get better. He is still working into the form he believes he can play at in 2018. He mentioned he missed training camp so he is still catching up but he wants to continue to make an impact on this team. He is a fantastic story for this season and it is scary to think what the defense could be should he continue to improve. Romeo Crennel has to relish having three safeties he can trust and interchange in Hal, Tyrann Mathieu, and Justin Reid. 

"The ball's been on the ground"

"He’s got to stop doing that because he has been a good addition to our team," O'Brien said about return specialist DeAndre Carter. "He’s given us some good plays in the couple of games that he’s been here."

The fumbles have been the one spot that wasn't bright for Carter in his short time as the Texans return man. He's had a couple of fumbles that luckily ended up back in the hands of the Texans and not in the grasp of opponents but outside of that all positive. He's much more dynamic than Tyler Ervin. He is averaging more yards per punt return and more yards per kick return than Ervin. His longest punt and kick returns of the season are both longer than Ervin's. In three games he has almost matched Ervin's total yardage output for the season. Ervin played in nine games. 

For a team that typically plays close games, Carter will be an important piece. He can't make poor decisions and leave the Texans with a huge field to cover and he can't keep fumbling the ball. What he can do though is provide a new and dangerous element the special teams previously lacked. 

Will Foreman play again this season?

This week the Texans need to decide to put D'Onta Foreman on the active roster or injured reserve. 

"We’re talking about that," said O'Brien. "I don’t know that that decision has been made. In fact, it hasn’t, but it’s definitely in the conversation."

He's been non-committal about Foreman's potential return. Last week the Texans running back said he was just waiting for the word he was ready to go. This is a much longer recovery time than typical for NFL players at the running back position. According to a study, Foreman should've been back roughly 340 days after surgery which has been discussed for almost a month now on SportsMap. That date would have been the Sunday after the Dolphins game. 

He is behind in some capacity, and, it's worth nothing performance after this type of injury was worse than before the injury for running backs. There has to be serious discussion to this being a lost season for him or he would be on the roster already. It wouldn't be shocking to see him hit IR this week. 

Will the Colts offensive line pull a Browns?

The Texans hit Baker Mayfield once. That's it. Now, there was pressure, and Mayfield made some bad plays because of it. The Browns no sacks allowed streak continued though and it is worth noting their streak supplanted the Colts streak. The Colts struggled early to keep Andrew Luck clean but he's been nearly untouched since the Colts got on track. They had a five-game stretch where they allowed zero sacks on their franchise quarterback. 

Sunday though, the Jaguars got to them. The Colts allowed three Jacksonville sacks and have allowed four in two games after the clean streak. The Texans will likely have to bring some heat on Luck. He stood in the pocket and picked them apart earlier this year in Indianapolis and that can't happen again. I would guess there is more than the Browns game as far as results of the pressure but they may not match the Jaguars total. It will be the key matchup of the game Sunday. 

I bet Andrew Luck lost comeback player of the year to J.J. Watt on Sunday. Both are coming off a lost season due to injury and both are back to their former glory. Luck is slinging the rock with the best of them and Watt is keeping pace in the pass rush race. Luck just put up a donut though. Quarterbacks have an inherent advantage in most awards so a big fat zero in the middle of Luck's resume should tip the scales to Watt.

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Houston gets another victory in Anaheim

Astros overpower Angels again as magic number dwindles

Kyle Tucker had 3 of Houston's RBI on Tuesday night, including a two-run homer. Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

After a beatdown of the Angels on Monday in the opener, the Astros entered Tuesday's game looking to replicate that success. Though Los Angeles would put up more of a fight, Houston still used their potent offense to keep the game out of reach.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 90-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (8-3)

Losing Pitcher: Packy Naughton (0-3)

Houston's bats keep connecting to back up Urquidy

The Astros picked up on Tuesday's game where they left off on Monday, launching homers to take and extend a lead. A leadoff walk by Carlos Correa in the top of the second set up Kyle Tucker, who drove a two-run shot. Aledmys Diaz was next, making it back-to-back jacks to push the new lead to 3-0.

That gave Jose Urquidy a lead to work with, which came in handy as former Astro Jack Mayfield cut the lead to two runs with a leadoff solo homer in the bottom of the second. Other than that, Urquidy did well through five innings, allowing just two other hits over that span. LA got to him in the sixth, getting two singles to set up a three-run homer to end his night. His final line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 79 P.

The runs keep coming

He would still leave in line for the win, though, as before that bottom of the sixth, the Astros had put up seven more runs across the fifth and sixth. A leadoff walk in the top of the fifth was followed by a two-run homer by Jose Altuve, then later in the frame, an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz made it 7-1. They pushed that to double digits in the sixth, with a leadoff solo shot by Martin Maldonado, a sac fly by Carlos Correa, and an RBI groundout by Kyle Tucker, putting them up 10-1 before the homer allowed by Urquidy cut that to 10-4.

Astros win to reduce magic number again

In the sixth, Cristian Javier took over for Urquidy, finished that inning, and returned for a scoreless seventh. He ran into Shohei Ohtani to lead off the bottom of the eighth and left a fastball in the zone, which Ohtani turned around 445 feet to make it a five-run game. Javier still got through the inning, leaving just the ninth for Houston's second reliever of the night, Josh James. James would get through a scoreless inning, erasing a leadoff walk as the lopsided win paired with an A's loss reduces Houston's magic number to 4.

Up Next: The third of this four-game series will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Wednesday. Janson Junk (0-1, 2.25 ERA) will make his third career start for the Angels, while Luis Garcia (11-7, 3.37 ERA) will have the ball for the Astros.

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