Watson doesn't lose like that and of course NFL officiating has some explaining to do

Short week bounce back needed for Texans

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

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

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.

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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