The Pallilog

Rockets are better, but are they good enough? Astros shuffle reassigns Reid Ryan, while Nolan Ryan is out

So how pumped are you about this Rockets' season so far? Are you willing to fake it a little? Their 5-3 start is OK, but nothing to fire up the masses.

The Rockets are going to be very good again this season. Somehow that's probably part of the problem with the relative apathy for this team. Other than within the Rockets organization, or among the most loyal and hopeful fans, the Rockets are not considered a first tier NBA championship contender.

Russell Westbrook makes them a more compelling game to game watch. Other than that (and The Brodie is a big that), the Rockets have a bit of same old same old feel to them. Their same old same old isn't bad. It's quite good. James Harden is going to keep putting up astounding stats. The Rockets are going to keep firing up three point shots like no other. They will win plenty of games. But does it excite you on a regular basis? Even with the Warriors out of the way this season, until or unless the Rockets are in at least the Western Conference Final, they're not going to be vigorously embraced as a title threat. That's a tough standard. But it's where the Rockets are.

Astros making off-season news

It's still kind of letdown mode from the Astros losing the last two games of the World Series. Plus the off season Hot Stove of transactions isn't even warming yet, as we wait to see where Gerrit Cole signs to pitch for the next several years. Among many other moves.

Anyone can understand a father wanting to set up his son going forward. UH basketball Head Coach Kelvin Sampson has done a stupendous job rebuilding the Cougars, so in his new contract was able to have his son Kellen designated as "head coach in waiting." Jim Crane is the lead owner of the Astros, so we should all grasp his moving son Jared into Astros' business operations, and moving out Reid Ryan in the process. I now note that I don't know Reid really at all on a personal level, and not all that deeply on a professional level. While it's the on field results that by far most shape the image of the franchise, when the Astros were a joke in this city, bringing on the relentlessly upbeat, approachable, and classy son of Nolan as President of Business Operations was a notable step in the Astros' return to relevance. With Reid reassigned, in a non-shocking non-coincidence, Nolan is out as an Astros Special Advisor.

Key stretch for Texans after off week

Allow me a brief semi-screed about the Texans' open week. Most of the sports world refers to it as a "bye" week. Most of the sports world is wrong! A bye is when an individual or team advances in a tournament bracket without having to play. If for the first time in franchise history the Texans finish as one of the top two seeds in the AFC, they will earn a bye week past the Wild Card round directly into the Divisional round of the playoffs. A week during the season when a team has no game scheduled is not a bye week. It's an open week, or an off week, or a week without a game. It's not a bye week! I feel a little better for that, thanks.

As for the Texans, their open week (!) finds them in good position in the AFC South. At 6-3, they'll pick up tackling the defining stretch of their regular season schedule. Deshaun Watson gives them hope in any game anywhere, but it's unlikely the Texans win two road playoff games to get to the Super Bowl. They need the playoff bye which means one home win from a spot in AFC Championship game. There are two division leaders ahead of the Texans in the AFC. The Ravens are 6-2, the Patriots are 7-1. The Texans play both within their next three games: at Baltimore, home vs New England. Those challenges are sandwiched around a home game with the Colts. Indy is behind the Texans at 5-3 (before the Colts play the dismal Dolphins Sunday) but with a win at NRG Stadium would own the AFC South tiebreaker. With a loss in Baltimore they're probably Texans Toast with regard to securing a bye. With a win they'd have a real shot at bit, winning tiebreakers over both the Ravens and the Chiefs.

SEC showdown

College football's latest regular season game of the year has LSU at Alabama Saturday afternoon. The Crimson Tide has rolled the Tigers in their last eight meetings. Two of the last three years LSU didn't even score.This season's Alabama's defense isn't up to usual elite Nick Saban unit standards, LSU has an explosive modern up-tempo attack for the first time, well, ever. With a strong showing and a win Tiger quarterback Joe Burrow can about cinch up the Heisman Trophy. LSU's only Heisman winner did it 60 years ago, Billy Cannon in 1959. Entirely gratuitous follow up fact!: Syracuse won the National Championship that season, beating Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

Buzzer Beaters

1. I'll take LSU +6 ½ 2. Toronto or Seattle Sunday? MLS Cup matchup! 3. Best rarely used synonyms for steal: Bronze-snaffle Silver-purloin Gold-filch





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Texans 20 , Colts 17

Texans vs Colts: Good, bad and ugly

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In a Thursday Night Football battle, the Texans edged out the Colts in 20-17 hard fought victory. Here's how I saw things play out:

The Good

-DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller re-established themselves as one of the best wide receiver duos in the league this game. 13 catches on 19 targets for a combined 234 yards and two touchdowns (both by Hopkins). Whenever Deshaun Watson has Hopkins on the short to intermediate stuff and Fuller stretching the field, it gives him more options in the pass game.

-Deshaun Watson completed 63.3% of his passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns. While he did throw an inexplicable interception and took a sack, he still did enough to guide his team to a win. This kid is going to be a star and eventually lead his team to great things one day.

-The defense came up big against a division rival. Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney combined for 27 tackles, 19 of those were solo tackles. This wasn't an easy game. It was a grinder, and the defense deserves some love for their contribution.

The Bad

-Watson's interception in the 2nd quarter hurt their momentum. The Colts had just punted the ball to the Texans. With a 3-0 lead, they could've taken a two score lead with a touchdown drive. Instead, pressure up the middle tipped the pass and Colts corner Kenny Moore made a great play to pick it off. Sometimes good defense beats good offense.

-Back to back Colt possessions swung momentum back in their favor. At the end of the 1st half, the Texans gave up a field goal to tie the game at 10. To start the 2nd half, the Texans failed on a 4th&3 conversion. The Colts went on an 11 play drive (10 runs, one pass) and scored after Benardrick McKinney failed to make the tackle when he met Jonathan Williams in the gap.

-The Colts ran the ball 39 times for 175 yards at a 4.5 yard per carry clip. Losing the rushing yardage differential by -76, turnover game by -1, and time of possession by almost seven minutes is normally a recipe for a loss. These metrics need to be cleaned up moving forward, or else this team will be out early in the playoffs.

The Ugly

-The Colts convderted 9/15 of their 3rd down conversions. Giving up 60% on 3rd down conversions isn't what good football teams do. If the Texans expect to advance in the AFC playoff picture, they have some work to do as far as 3rd down conversion percentage.

-Dylan Cole went down with a calf injury in the 2nd quarter. He's not only one of their more athletic linebackers, he's alos the leading special teams tackler. Hopefully he's okay as this team, particularly the defense, has suffered enough injuries.

-After the field goal early in the 2nd quarter, I heard them playing "Football Time In Houston" by Clay Walker. Will they PLEASE get rid of that damn song?!? I'm sure there's a rap song they can use that's better. Hell, get a local band to do a rock song. Anything but that tired ass song!

Now that the Texans have won this game and firm control of the AFC South, they have about a 75% chance at making the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Colts have only about a 20% chance to make it. The Texans have five games left: Patriots, Broncos, @Titans, @Bucs, and Titans. None of those teams pose a serious threat outside the Pats. Winning all these games would give them a 12-4 record and a shot at a first round bye depending on what happens with other teams. Winning this game puts them in the driver's seat in the AFC South, and helps them in the race for a first round bye. They'll need some out side help to get first round bye in the playoffs, but health is a major component moving forward. Especially on the defensive side of the ball. With the Pats coming into town next Sunday night, the Texans have a chance to make some noise in the AFC. Next week will be the new biggest game of the Bill O'Brien era.

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