Texans: 3 headlines, 2 questions, 1 bet for Week 5

Deshaun Watson needs to avoid getting hit. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It's Monday and there's plenty to still digest from the Texans game. 

Red Zone Has Fans Seeing Red

It started off so nice. The Texans got into the Cowboys red zone at the end of the first in thanks to the first of many Deandre Hopkins big plays and then the old ugly penalties raised their head. Negative yards, but, alas, a new Texans team. First and goal from the 14 turned into third and one thanks to Watson's legs. Keke Coutee would score on a shovel pass on the next play. 

That was about the last time the red zone play looked cohesive and positive for the Texans. 

From the play calls to the execution and everything in between, it was tough to see the Texans constantly settle for field goals when they were so close. It was especially frustrating to see them come away with no points on a bad play to end the half, and later, on fourth and nearly two, call a play that easily would have got them the points in the second quarter. 

"Not this year," O'Brien exclaimed when someone brought up the Texans success from last season in the red zone. O'Brien then took a good portion of the blame. 

"It starts with me," he said. "I've got to do a better job teaching it and designing it."

O'Brien said there is a menu of plays they can call in the red area and they called them all but "not many of them worked."

Yes, Bill O'Brien has to be better. That's a given. From design to the coaching of execution. This is on Watson and the pass catchers too. Watson can't take off as much and as quick and someone has to win their matchup and get open. If Watson is tossing from the pocket to guys who seemingly have won their matchup the success rate is going to be higher and it sure as heck will be better looking.

Deshaun Watson Hit Maker and Hit Taker

Deshaun Watson again made plays few quarterbacks in the NFL are capable of making and no Texans quarterback has ever been capable of making. He showed massive improvement from just last week on a variety of areas. This is an important skill for a young quarterback to display. Watson also completed 75 percent of his passes which shows how effiecient he is with the passing when the offense is humming. 

Now, let's hope he uses it this next week. He can't put his body in harm's way like he did Sunday against the Cowboys. That isn't practical. This team is going nowhere without him so he needs to remain healthy. If it means sacrificing a few yards on any given play so be it. Also, the interception was a clear example of trying to do too much. It isn't ideal in that situation, but a sack is the right move. The Cowboys didn't but could have won the game off that turnover. 

Bill O'Brien chalked up some of the hits as it is Watson's style and that's a product of how he plays and how he likes to play. It has to change. It wasn't like he was being tackled like a running back either. He was taking big pops from the Dallas defense. He has to take better care of himself. 

Dallas Stars Neutralized

The Texans deserve kudos for how they handled the two best players on the Cowboys in this game. Demarcus Lawrence entered the game the NFL's sack leader and Ezekiel Elliot entered this week as the NFL's rushing leader. You wouldn't know either of those was the truth if you watched this game. 

"Good team defense," O'Brien said. "Ezekiel Elliot is a great player. I thought that our guys really played good team defense."  

Lawrence found himself with just one tackle in the final stat sheet. Now, don't get me wrong. He was disruptive and he required attention but kudos to Kendall Lamm who two weeks in a row has dealt with hot pass rushes.

O'Brien said the team "put a lot of guys" on Lawrence but credited the players who won their one-on-one matchups against the prolific pass rusher. 

Elliot was, of course, the focal point of the defense. He earned just 84 yards total, with 54 of them being rushing yards on 20 attempts. Benardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham set the tone at linebacker and the secondary was quick to clean up any action that headed their way with Justin Reid, Kareem Jackson, and Tyrann Mathieu all stuffed him at least once. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney also got their patented stops. D.J. Reader had a really nice game at defensive tackle as well. 

The defense should be commended. They played a heck of a game to slow the Cowboys only good offensive skill player. 

How much trouble are the Texans in at running back?

Alfred Blue had the majority of the snaps go his way as Lamar Miller was available for an emergency only according to Bill O'Brien. He had a really nice day catching the football with eight catches and 73 yards of offense. Rushing though was a different story. 

Blue had one rush for 17 yards that made up a good chunk of his 46 on the ground. The other 19 of his 20 carries went for an average of 1.5 yards per rush. 

Lamar Miller hasn't exactly been a world-beater either carrying the ball. After two strong showings to start the year Miller rattled off an average of 2.5 yards per carry the past two games he played and of course, he missed this one. 

The offensive line has something to do with it but so does O'Brien and his rhythm as the play caller. Rushing to the outside was a disaster against Dallas and that simply wasn't going to work. They don't seem to trust Buddy Howell as they were shorthanded and he didn't see the field. Tyler Ervin isn't used as a rusher. 

Something needs to happen here because the Texans will have to call on this element of their team when a defense is slowing down Watson one day and they're going to have to hope it is a lot better than the past three games. 

Is the pass protection coming together?

This might sound crazy but there's some progress here. They might have found just the right mix with Kendall Lamm at right tackle and Julién Davenport at left tackle. Martinas Rankin is the future at tackle for this team, or one would hope, but there was too much inconsistency and not nearly enough success to keep putting him out there. Thus, the Davenport start. 

Against the Colts the Texans allowed seven sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Last night against the Cowboys they allowed one sack and 10 quarterback hits. Not the best line but a dramatic improvement considering the pass rush of the Cowboys is way better than the Colts. Watson can't afford extra shots in a game, he already takes enough, so this team has to make sure they keep improving on protecting him. 

Lamm has been a revelation at tackle because he had not played well in any action he had prior to this. Davenport is clearly more comfortable at left tackle than right tackle. The interior has gaps, Nick Martin has had some whiffs notably among the interior, but they have come together nicely enough. 

The real concern is rushing the football. Watson isn't getting a ton of designed run yards, more so that he takes off. When you take out Watson's rushing yards the Texans team average per rush was 2.28 yards per carry. That's putrid and they will not win a lot of football games if they can't get going on the ground. 

I bet the Texans don't underestimate the Buffalo Bills on Sunday

The Texans know they are in for a fight, especially after Buffalo handed the Titans a loss for their second victory of the year. Sunday should be another ugly and nasty game with the Bills trying, like the Cowboys, to muddy things up and make the Texans beat themselves. If this was a one win Bills team coming to town I would be worried about the look ahead with Jacksonville in week seven. Now, with the Bills handing a fellow AFC South team a loss, the Texans have to take notice and not underestimate the Bills.

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With the end of the regular season in sight, the Houston Astros host the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, coming off a huge walk-off 2-1 win against the Orioles.

Two players from the finale against Baltimore really stood out for the 'Stros. Jeremy Pena, who had a clutch double late in the game, and Cristian Javier.

Javier struck out 11 batters over 5 innings surrendering only one run, which was exactly what the Astros needed in possibly the most important game of the regular season.

Both Pena and Javier were critical pieces to the Astros title in 2022, and it looks like they're rounding into form at just the right time.

Javier's struggles have caused many to question who would be the team's third starter in the postseason, behind Framber Valdez and Justin Verlander. Let's put this to bed right now, it's Javier.

This should be everything you need to know. Let's start with Hunter Brown. Brown has given up 5 earned runs or more in 4 of his last 7 starts.

How about JP France? France has surrendered 5 or more earned runs in 3 of his last 5 games.

However, Cristian Javier hasn't allowed 5 or more runs in a start since July 3. Javier may only give you 5 innings, but that's actually pretty common for starters in the playoffs. Teams typically remove their starters before the third time through the order.

Prime Time Pena

While the power hasn't been there for Pena this year, he is swinging the bat much better of late. Over his last 30 games, he's hitting .325 while slugging .453. Pena may only have 10 bombs on the year, but he's getting on base and hitting plenty of doubles.

If these two can contribute at a similar level to last postseason, the sky is the limit for the 2023 Astros.

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