Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images
3 Headlines, 2 Questions, and 1 Bet ahead of the Thursday Night thriller with the Colts.
We're on to Indianapolis and Thursday
That is basically what Bill O'Brien said on Monday. He didn't seem too willing to discuss the Baltimore blowout so the focus was on the Colts on the short week.
He mentioned he expected to see some of Baltimore's defensive sets and schemes that were successful on Sunday from the Colts. He also noted this is a big mental week. I look at it as matching wits with Frank Reich.
Neither team looks remotely close to the last time these two played. The Texans have new faces in the secondary and might even be a little healthy. No J.J. Watt of course. Maybe Will Fuller is back, maybe he isn't. The Colts have Jacoby Brisett back rendering a lot of what they did in two of the past three games near useless from a scouting perspective. The Colts secondary should be much more healthy than the last contest.
This isn't an easy task for O'Brien and company. Frank Reich has out-coached him in all four of their meetings. O'Brien could use a "win" on the headset so to speak.
Deshaun Watson doesn't lose like that
The worst loss of Deshaun Watson's career in college when he actually played even a bit in the game is 24 points. He didn't start that game, just came in late. When Clemson was his program and he was the guy? His worst loss was by five points to Alabama in the national championship.
In the pros Watson hasn't lost like that much either. At all really. He has a 14-point playoff loss to the Colts and an eight point loss to the Chiefs in his time as the starter that are worse than seven. That's it.
So a 34-point ass-kicking from the Ravens can't be fun for him or his teammates. There will be a bounce back.
There is no reason the inherent belief Deshaun Watson will be awesome should go away. Sunday, while slightly about his game, was about the team more than him. He is a phenomenal talent and every player has hiccups. Lamar Jackson has had plenty this year including a disappointing game against the Chiefs in a loss earlier this season as well as a stinker against the Browns.
Watson won't lose like this again for a very long time.
It was worth the challenge
As a leader in the NFL, we need someone new in New York deciding calls. https://t.co/szdHjWhKbR— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) November 17, 2019
Bill O'Brien was right to challenge the pass interference no call against Marlon Humphrey. There is no denying this. I understand some may view this as an example of O'Brien being hard-headed when it comes to this but I don't agree. This was egregious. He wouldn't challenge a ticky-tack play.
I am aware the calls typically are not getting overturned but it isn't like they never get overturned. It has happened. Later in the day San Francisco had a call overturned against them when Arizona challenged that there was no defensive pass interference.
Going forward though, unless there is a clear idea of change sent out in memo form throughout the league, just keep the flag in your pocket. This goes for all the coaches, not just O'Brien.
As for the NFL, well they need to fix things. Al Riveron sits atop his castle of lies in New York and consistently gets calls wrong to protect his cronies in the white and black stripes. Roger Goodell and the NFL should be embarrassed at the way this is handled and the competition committee has a real problem on their hands.
Will the soft tissue twosome return this week?
Will Fuller hasn't played since the last time the Texans played the Colts where he managed just one catch and had the hamstring issue flare up. That was a month ago.
Over a month ago Bradley Roby left the Chiefs game with a hamstring issue.
It would be huge to have both players back for the Texans. Bill O'Brien noted Monday they need to find a way to test both players without real tough practices available on the short week. He mentioned both fall into the game-time decision category right now.
Fuller is needed back more than Roby. The offense has so much more juice when he is on the field. It all opens up because he can take the top off the defense. Don't get me wrong, I won't scoff at having both of them back by any means.
Justin Houston is a freak
Now SIX straight games with a sack for Justin Houston, who has a team-best eight sacks on the year.— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) November 17, 2019
He got off to a slow start in his new home, but the veteran is a monster again. The Colts STOLE him this offseason with a contract that only pays him $12 million a year for two years. The ageless wonder that is elite pass rushing talent has been a bargain the past few weeks.
Houston has to be stopped as he's the most consistent pass rusher on the Colts. I also bring him up for two reasons.
The first reason is I believe J.J. Watt will age better than Houston for the duration of their careers. They're roughly the same age but Watt has had injuries hobble him much more than Houston. However, coming back from injuries Houston hasn't been anywhere close to as good as his best. Watt, in my opinion, still is elite in some categories. Not to say Houston isn't good, he is, but Watt has been able to bounce back closer to his former greatness than Houston in his career.
The second reason is Houston will be the type of player the Texans should be looking to spend cap space on to round out their rosters going forward the next couple of offseasons as they lack draft picks but have cap space.
I bet the winner of Thursday's game is the AFC South champion
The Colts desperately need the win on Thursday if they have designs on winning the AFC South title. If they lose to the Texans the head-to-head will be split, and the division records would be the same dropping it down to common opponents in a tiebreaker situation. Now, obviously the division record can change drastically with the Texas still having both games against the Titans left. For the Texans, they would essentially be two games back with a loss. The Colts would own first tiebreaker which is head-to-head and that won't change based on the rest of the schedule.
The winner Thursday is the winner of the AFC South in my mind.
As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.
Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).
Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.
But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.
Cristian Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. He acknowledged that some of his struggles last year could be attributed to some extra weight he was carrying around in addition to the already-documented mechanical flaws he had.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 22, 2024
In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.
Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.
The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.