CODY STOOTS: 3 headlines, 2 questions, 1 bet

Return man and returning man stand out for Texans

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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Justin Verlander will start for the Astros on Friday night. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston Astros (22-28, third in the AL West) vs. Oakland Athletics (21-31, fourth in the AL West)

Oakland, California; Friday, 9:40 p.m. EDT

PITCHING PROBABLES: Astros: Justin Verlander (2-2, 3.97 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 26 strikeouts); Athletics: Ross Stripling (1-8, 5.19 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 32 strikeouts)

BETMGM SPORTSBOOK: LINE Astros -170, Athletics +142; over/under is 8 1/2 runs

BOTTOM LINE: The Oakland Athletics begin a three-game series at home against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Oakland has a 21-31 record overall and a 12-14 record in home games. The Athletics have hit 65 total home runs to rank third in the AL.

Houston is 22-28 overall and 8-13 in road games. The Astros have a 13-4 record in games when they did not allow a home run.

The teams match up Friday for the fifth time this season. The Astros lead the season series 4-0.

TOP PERFORMERS: Brent Rooker has 11 home runs, 17 walks and 32 RBI while hitting .286 for the Athletics. Max Schuemann is 12-for-35 with a double and two RBI over the past 10 games.

Kyle Tucker leads Houston with 17 home runs while slugging .638. Alex Bregman is 9-for-38 with three home runs and six RBI over the last 10 games.

LAST 10 GAMES: Athletics: 2-8, .225 batting average, 5.25 ERA, outscored by 27 runs

Astros: 7-3, .272 batting average, 3.13 ERA, outscored opponents by 20 runs

INJURIES: Athletics: Esteury Ruiz: 10-Day IL (wrist), Darell Hernaiz: 60-Day IL (ankle), Alex Wood: 15-Day IL (rotator cuff), Paul Blackburn: 15-Day IL (foot), Joseph Boyle: 15-Day IL (back), Freddy Tarnok: 60-Day IL (hip), Luis Medina: 60-Day IL (knee), Sean Newcomb: 60-Day IL (knee), Aledmys Diaz: 60-Day IL (calf), Miguel Andujar: 10-Day IL (knee), Ken Waldichuk: 60-Day IL (elbow), Trevor Gott: 60-Day IL (elbow)

Astros: Oliver Ortega: 60-Day IL (elbow), Bennett Sousa: 60-Day IL (shoulder), Penn Murfee: 60-Day IL (elbow), Luis Garcia: 60-Day IL (elbow), Lance McCullers Jr.: 60-Day IL (elbow), Jose Urquidy: 15-Day IL (forearm), Kendall Graveman: 60-Day IL (elbow)

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