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

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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