Friday Stoots 6 Pack

Statement possibility ahead for Texans

Houston Texans/Facebook

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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Even though the Astros have been in the last five postseasons and made it to the World Series in three of those, they still have some new faces on the roster this year that will be participating in their first playoff games. Three of them, in particular, could have impactful enough parts to play that they shape the entire fortune of the team in these playoffs.

Trey Mancini

Although Baltimore was in the hunt until the last weeks of the season in 2022, it took getting traded to the Astros for Trey Mancini to finally get his first taste of playoff baseball. Mancini debuted in 2016, and while his numbers have been frustrating since joining his new team, he is still a powerful slugger whom the Astros should use at times in the ALDS and beyond.

Whether they need to spell Yuli Gurriel at first or use him in the outfield, Mancini will be a good weapon for the Astros, especially if he can break out of his recent funk and string together some good at-bats. Before the trade, he was batting .268, a number much more in line with his career numbers than the low .176 he had with the Astros. With the time off between the final regular season game and his first plate appearance in the playoffs, I'd expect he'll have found a way to put the slump behind him and come through with some key hits.

Hunter Brown

One of the most pleasant surprises the Astros had this year was seeing the quality they could get out of Hunter Brown from day one in the majors. After being touted as the next Justin Verlander after his six-inning shutout start in his debut, Brown made another quality start before transitioning to the bullpen.

Now, the big caveat here is that Brown actually makes the ALDS roster, which, with Houston's depth, puts a good but challenging task in front of them to assemble the proper ratio of position players to pitchers, and within the pitchers, starters to relievers. Assuming Brown makes the cut, he could be a big difference-maker.

Brown has only allowed two hits and three walks in his last three appearances, most recently logging 2.1 innings of scoreless work to lower his ERA to 0.89. He has electric stuff and would be a great asset to have in a game where maybe one of Houston's starters can't make it past a few innings, and the Astros need someone to gap between them and the other relievers.

Jeremy Peña

One first-timer that we don't have to speculate about making the roster or getting plenty of playing time is Jeremy Peña. He'll be at shortstop and probably batting second behind Jose Altuve in the lineup. Entering the year with high expectations to take over for Carlos Correa, Peña put together an outstanding rookie campaign, including launching 22 home runs, matching Correa's rookie number, and coming in first amongst AL shortstops in defensive runs saved.

One area it may take him and others combined to replace Correa is going to the plate with the game on the line and coming through in the clutch. If Peña can come up with one of those "it's my time" moments in the 2022 postseason, he'll have completed the total takeover. In any case, it will be fun to see how the rookie does his first time on the biggest stage.

One of the most well-rounded teams in the league this year, and now in the playoffs, Houston has plenty of veteran experience that will make them a tough out in any series. Add in these three players, and it shows why the Astros are coming out ahead in most people's predictions.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome