Friday Stoots 6 Pack

Statement possibility ahead for Texans

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1. As the Texans now dead winning streak grew, the opponents they could make a "statement" against were few and far between. Now, some games ended up looking better and better. The Cowboys are legit and so are the Colts. The Bills are far better than first believed. Still, the winning streak didn't earn the Texans a lot of credit and the loss to the Colts elicited plenty of "I told you so's" from doubters. The defending champions were potentially the last opponent the Texans would face who was partially relevant. Even that was in danger, but then Nick Foles stepped in, did Nick Foles things, and now the Eagles are a legit opponent. Even most doubters will give Houston credit for a road win against a hot Philly team.

2. Keke Coutee and Lamar Miller remained in the limited participation part of the injury report for the Texans on Thursday. The playoffs are very close to being a lock and Houston might be locked into at least a playoff spot come Sunday's game anyway. If the Chargers down the Ravens the Texans have the playoffs to look forward to in January. That is where the focus should be for both these players. Especially if D'Onta Foreman is somehow ready to contribute. Don't be shocked to see the inactive list include Coutee and Miller or at the very least one of them. Speaking of injuries, Fletcher Cox has been missing practice this week for the Eagles. Cox is one of the best interior players in football and would be a great test for the Texans offensive line. He isn't the type of player who has to practice to play. If he isn't 100 percent he is still better than most. He could destroy the Texans offensive plan with his inside prowess.

3. Jadeveon Clowney embracing his role with the Texans is refreshing.

"Probably moving around a lot more," Clowney said as an answer to what he has improved on this year. "They move me around more than I've probably ever moved. I've played more linebacker this year than I've played in the past four years, but whatever I can do to help this team, I'll do it. I'll line up over the nose, guard, anywhere."

I can remember it wasn't that long ago Clowney said, somewhat joking and somewhat serious, he didn't love mixing it up with guards and centers. He's dominating those players regularly and the Texans have moved him all over the place and let him just wreck offenses. It has been really fun to watch one of the freakiest athletes in the NFL play free and ferocious.

4. Pay very close attention to the New England Patriots this weekend. If the Patriots are going to be the typical Patriots they should run through their last two opponents which are the Bills and Jets. Both games are at home and despite some late season life to two teams headed nowhere in 2018 the Patriots, and Tom Brady specifically, should handle both of them if they are getting back to their usual level of play. If you see New England struggle in both of these games it may be a sign they're more vulnerable than ever. Especially important in keeping the the bye for the Texans and a potential divisional showdown with New England.

5. The Dallas Cowboys went from comfortable to nervous in just one week. They turned in a horrid performance against the Colts, albeit with little to play for in that game having seemingly locked up a home game in the playoffs. Philadelphia made it interesting though beating the Rams and putting some pressure on the Cowboys. Now, Dallas has to lose out and the Eagles have to win out for Dallas to slip out of the playoffs. It would be important to show a little more life on offense than last week against the Colts. The Buccaneers aren't very good; it should be a bounce-back for the Cowboys.

6. I hope you are playing in your fantasy football championship this weekend. I believe the fantasy season is so crazy at the end of the year it should end week 16 of the NFL season, not the final week. Most teams aren't resting players before the last week. I also believe you should get some, if not all, of your entry fee back for making the fantasy playoffs. It is a fun wrinkle my big league added years ago and it keeps people who start slow in the hunt all year. Most of all, have fun with fantasy football and enjoy watching football.

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With so much on the line for the Astros this past weekend, they couldn't possibly get swept by the Royals, could they?

That's exactly what they did thanks to some poor pitching, and an inability to get timely hits with runners in scoring position.

The Astros are currently clinging to the last wild card position as they head to Seattle to face the Mariners, with Justin Verlander on the mound for the 'Stros.

Starting pitching has been the biggest issue for the club as of late, with Hunter Brown looking unusable moving forward. Brown has given up, wait for this, 6 earned runs or more in 3 of his last 4 starts. His ERA for the season is now over 5.

So how will the rotation look over the final stretch of games? We know for the Mariners series the team is rolling out Verlander, Cristian Javier, and Framber Valdez.

The club is off on Thursday, and they head to Arizona for a 3-game series with the Diamondbacks that starts Friday. We predict JP France will pitch Friday, with Justin Verlander likely taking the ball Saturday.

Then all bets are off for Sunday. It could be Framber on 3-days rest, or all hands on deck for a bullpen game.

Of course, with the division race being so close, things could change on a daily basis. There's even a scenario where Arizona secures their wild card, and the final two games of the season don't matter for them.

The other big factor will be the outcome of the 4-game Rangers-Mariners series that finishes off the season.

Be sure to watch the video above as we examine all the scenarios leading up to the end of the regular season for Houston, and much more!

Watch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Thursday on SportsMap Houston's YouTube channel.

And listen to ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 FM for Houston's best sports talk.

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