THE PALLILOG

Stop us if you have heard this before: Texans need to find a way to protect Watson against Jags

Deshaun Watson takes his act to New York. Tim Warner/Getty Images

No must win game looms for the Texans Sunday against Jacksonville. Unless you are gaga over the Titans after their season opening humiliation of the Browns in Cleveland, the AFC South does not look to have a team capable of pulling away and ripping off 12 wins. Maybe not even 10. Last season the Texans extricated themselves from an 0-3 mess of a start to win the division, so 0-2 wouldn't mean curtains. But if the Jaguars turn out to be decent with rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew and a rejuvenated defense, the Texans dropping a home division game to fall to 0-2 would be problematic. At eight and a half or nine points the Texans are the third biggest favorite in the NFL this week. Baltimore at home is -13 vs. Arizona, New England is a whopping 19 point road favorite at Miami.

Except for one awful decision and throw Deshaun Watson looked like a top 10 quarterback at New Orleans. Alas his career will be inevitably altered for the worse if the offensive line play doesn't improve and Watson doesn't speed up that imaginary clock in his head by half a tick.

Developmental prospect or not, if second round draft pick Max Scharping isn't very soon good enough to move right tackle Seantrel Henderson out of the starting lineup, the pick looks bad.

It really would be nice if Head Coach Bill O'Brien stops uttering pedantic and/or condescending nonsense. The Texans' secondary alignment on the Saints' last completion before the game winning field goal was simply indefensible. Billy Bluster's pearl of non-wisdom: "We made a call there that we thought was the best call for us." As opposed to coaches who make calls they think are the worst for them? The call was absurd! Safeties stationed as close to Mississippi as to the line of scrimmage? Two cornerbacks lined up as if covering skunks who'd just taken swims in a toxic waste pool? It's as if the Texans thought they were up by four and not one. You don't suppose…? Nah.

And Coach, about using a timeout and then immediately losing another one because of a challenge after the same play…

Astros drop three straight

In winning three in a row at Minute Maid Park after getting demolished 15-0 in the series opener, the Oakland A's administered the latest reminder that as great as the Astros are they are a lock for nothing when their postseason starts in three weeks. The A's have a better record than the Astros over the last three months. So do the Indians. Any team can beat any other team in a three out of five baseball series. Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply wrong.

Thursday's 3-2 loss to the A's dropped the Astros to 0-47 on the season when trailing going to the ninth inning. As I've covered before, all teams lose almost all of their games when down after eight. Few actually lose every one of them.

It has worked out quite well that the Astros were forced to move to the American League in order for the owners to approve the sale of the franchise from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane's group. Latest example: Yordan Alvarez is pretty much a lock to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Everything else being equal, as amazing as he's been Alvarez would have little shot at the NL rookie honor. Not with the Mets' Peter Alonso entering the weekend with 47 homers and 109 runs batted in. In the end you get credit for what you did accomplish, not for what you might have accomplished if called up sooner.

Not even counting his winning World Series Most Valuable Player George Springer's "career year" to date was 2017. He played 140 games that season with 34 homers and 85 RBI. Through 109 games played this season: 34 homers and 85 RBI. If he hadn't missed a month with a hamstring injury Springer might be right there with Alex Bregman as top alternatives to Mike Trout for AL MVP. Springer's contract is up at the end of the season, but he can't become a free agent until after next season when he'll already be 31 years old. Would the Astros say "too much" or Springer say "not enough" to a suggestion of four years 80 mil?

Down week for colleges

Overall it's a dud of a college football schedule this weekend. Not one Top 25 matchup on the card. UH plus nine and a half vs. Washington State feels like the right side Friday night at NRG Stadium. Texas can seemingly name its score -32 vs. Rice at NRG Saturday.

Buzzer Beaters

1. The "Texas Kickoff" really shouldn't take place the third full weekend of the season. 2. It would be a downer if Carlos Correa only gets to play in a championship series this year while rehabbing with Round Rock during the Pacific Coast League Championship Series. 3. Look away triskaidekophobes! Greatest athletes to wear #13 (A-Rod is disqualified and an honorable mention for Billy Wagner): Bronze-Steve Nash Silver-Dan Marino Gold-Wilt Chamberlain

Saints 34, Bucs 17

Saints vs. Bucs 2: Good, bad and ugly

Getty Images

The Saints got back in the win column by dominating a lesser talented division rival this week. Here's what I thought of the Saints' move to 8-2:

The Good

-Michael Thomas and Drew Brees are perhaps the most prolific quarterback-wide receiver duo in the league. Brees was 28/35 for 228 yards and three touchdowns, while Thomas had eight catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Thomas is still leading the league in receptions and yards, despite Brees missing a chunk of the season.

-The defense came up big depite giving up over 300 yards. They had two sacks, four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), and limited the Bucs to only 36 yards rushing. After last week's performance against the Falcons, it was important for the defense to step up.

-Sean Payton made a concerted effort to get Alvin Kamara the ball. Whether it was rushing, receiving, or on returns, Kamara was heavily involved in the gameplan. 26 total touches for 155 yards altogether.

The Bad

-Giving up 313 yards passing to Jameis Winston and the Bucs was terrible. Sure Marson Lattimore was out this game, but this defense has too much talent to give up that many yards through the air.

-Speaking of giving up passing yards, Cameron Brate had 10 catches for 73 yards. Tight ends haven't really been a problem for the Saints, but it was today. Moving forward, they need to do better about giving up the easy stuff underneath, especially to tight ends.

-The longest run recorded was a 14-yarder by Kamara. The team only totaled 109 yards on the ground, which is uncharacteristic of them since they committed to the run more a few years ago. They are used to averaging upwards of 130 yards a game on the ground.

The Ugly

-I think it may be time to invest high picks on linebackers. The current linebackers on the roster are pretty good, but the only real playmaker is Demario Davis, who's already 30. Where's the young playmakers at linebacker? There are none. Hopefully Alex Anzalone can turn into something.

-As I mentioned earlier, Marshon Lattimore missed this game. Some of the guys that filled in lately, such as CJ Gardner-Johnson, have done an okay job at best. There's no replacing one of the better young cover corners in the game. Gardner-Johnson had a couple rookie mistakes, but looks like he'll be a player, just not yet.

-Speaking of young guys needing to step up, I sure hope Marcus Davenport removes himself from the back of the milk carton soon! When a team gives up the type of draft capital the Saints did to draft you, you have to produce. Far too often Davenport has been a no show in the stat column and on film. Two first round picks and a mid rounder were used to get him and he's so far playing like a fourth rounder.

Last week, the Saints were outplayed by a then 1-7 division rival. This week, they decided to dominate a 2-7 division rival. Brees and the gang returned to form against the Bucs and have a firm grip on the NFC South thanks to the Falcons dismantling of the Panthers, who the Saints play next week. If they win next week, they can wrap up the division crown and start taking aim at a first round bye in the playoffs. Here's to consistency and health down the stretch.

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