Every-Thing Sports

Texans can build a legacy over the next three games

Deshaun Watson had an up and down day. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Texans have been around for 18 years. They've made playoff appearances and even have a couple playoff wins. Never in their history, with the exception of a couple years in the Matt Schaub era, have they been truly thought of as a serious contender. They've built a reputation as a team that's more like the bridesmaid who never gets married, but is always asked to be in another friend's wedding. Close, but never the center of attention. Always on the outside looking in. Smelling the cookies, but can't afford to buy them. You get the point.

They have a chance to change that narrative this season. More specifically, they can set themselves up nicely over the next three weeks. With games against at the Ravens and MVP candidate Lamar Jackson in a noon time must-see-tv matchup, Thursday Night Football against division rival Colts, followed by Sunday night Football against perpetual big brother in the Patriots. All three games will be paid close attention to by the national eye given the high profile nature of not only the opponents and times they play, but also because the Texans are 6-3, leading the AFC South, and have a pretty damned good quarterback of their own. But there are bigger implications at stake.

Ready for your closeup Mr. Watson?

Deshaun Watson is no stranger to the spotlight. We all know of his exploits while at Clemson, and we've all heard what his college coach thinks of him. Over the next three games, he has an opportunity to establish himself as not only an MVP candidate this season, but as one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He has to outplay and beat a current MVP frontrunner, division rival, and Hall of Famer to do so. The funny thing is, it's not farfetched given the immense amount of talent he has. He has enough talent around him and the ability to elevate said talent to get it done. No more excuses because stretches and opportunities like this don't present themselves too often.

Next man up

In 2010, the Packers went on to win the Super Bowl. They also had over 20 guys on injured reserve that year as well. No team goes through a season and wins at a high level without facing adversity. The excuse of guys being hurt is the reason for not succeeding is for losers. Every player on that roster is there because they're considered one of the best in the world at what they do. There are approximately seven billion people on this planet. Only 1,952 of them are actively on an NFL roster or practice squad (give or take some on injured reserve and other lists). While the guys on the middle to back end of the Texans' roster may not be the best, they also didn't make it this far without proving themselves capable. Lose the "we have guys injured" narrative and step up to win games.

Little brother syndrome

Over the course of their history, the Texans have had a little brother syndrome when it comes to the Colts and Patriots. The Colts have owned the AFC South and they've failed miserably at trying to be Patriots South. Both of these teams have been to and won Super Bowls since the Texans have been in the league. Both have also used the Texans as a doormat to those Super Bowls. Now is the time to start putting an end to both of those storylines. The Colts are still a good team, but they aren't the juggernaut they once were. The Patriots still seem to be the powerhouse they've always been, but also have chinks in their armor. Watson is the one piece the Texans have never had: a dynamic playmaker at the most critical position. Now is the time to punch these two older brothers in the mouth and establish a new trend.

A reason for arrogance

It's well-known that Bill O'Brien can be a prick. His smug answers and general arrogance are another reason why people feel this franchise is trying too hard to be Patriots South. He's seen as a Bill Belichek knock-off who doesn't have the skins on the wall to pull off Belichek's persona. If this team can not only win these next three games, but also begin to establish themselves as true title contenders for the foreseeable furture, O'Brien's attitude would be a lot more accepted. He seems to be more pleasent when things are going his way, so maybe he'd drop the asshole act altogether if the team is winning and contending. Whether he's a nice guy or not doesn't mean much to me, but his whole schtick would be more palatable if the Texans were making regular AFC Title game appearences.

I'm not saying this three game stretch will define this franchise for years to come. This stretch can springboard them into something bigger. Finishing this run 3-0, 9-3 overall, would give them supreme confidence as well as position them for a first round bye in the AFC playoffs. They would even have a shot at homefield advantage throughout should they finish with the same record as the Patriots. Now is when it's time for your nuts to drop and voices to deepen Texans. It's time to start shaving and wearing grown man deodorant. This is when you have to get a job and start paying bills. Growing up has to happen at some point, or you're just another bum living off your parents and more successful siblings.

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Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2022 regular season is nearing its end and while for the Houston Astros the true test will begin in the postseason, now is a good time to look ahead at what the team’s starting rotation could look like in 2023.

The big question will be whether long-time ace Justin Verlander returns to the team. Heading into 2022, there was doubt whether he would even be with the Astros coming off Tommy John surgery. Verlander re-signed with Houston on a two-year deal with a player option for 2023.

His production in 2022 has been nothing short of sensational. Verlander has the most wins for the Astros with a week left in the season. He has a 1.82 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 5.2 wins above replacement. More importantly for both Verlander and the Astros, is that he has played in 26 games and counting this season.

Whether Verlander remains with the Astros will likely depend on whether Houston is willing to spend. It is highly likely Verlander opts out of his player option following the strong 2022 campaign he has put together and looks for a bigger payday. Houston has shown it is not afraid to let key players walk in the offseason, so let’s take a look at a potential rotation with and without Verlander.

If the 39-year-old, who will be 40 by the time the 2023 regular season starts, stays with the Astros, he will undoubtedly be either the No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher in the rotation along with Framber Valdez, who is right behind Verlander in wins this season at 16. If Verlander leaves, Valdez should be the new Astros ace at No. 1.

Behind those two should be pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who in seven games in 2022 has a 2.38 ERA and has cooled the concerns about his right flexor tendon strain being a long-term concern. He suffered the injury last postseason.

After those three, things begin to get interesting. Let’s say Houston opts to stay with a six-man rotation. The fourth starter could be Luis Garcia, who has a 3.90 ERA in 2022. The 25-year-old has shown he is more than a capable starter for the Astros.

The big question is if Hunter Brown can lock himself a spot in the rotation. Numbers wise, he makes a solid case to be more than Houston’s fifth starter as he has garnered 1.13 ERA through four appearances and two starts.

Brown’s starts have been against the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, so there is a bit of a caveat there, but the upside undoubtedly should put him in the conversation for a starting role in 2023.

If Verlander leaves Houston, it should be more of a guarantee that a spot in the rotation as a starter for Brown is locked. Another factor in whether Brown is a starter could be if the Astros keep Dusty Baker as manager. Baker has shown at times he is willing to side with veterans over younger talent.

Other factors in Brown’s role will also be Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier. Urquidy has a 3.88 ERA in 28 games, all of which have been starts. Javier has a 2.65 ERA in 29 appearances, 24 of which have been starts.

Javier’s role for the Astros the last couple of years has involved starting and coming out of the bullpen, but this season he has shown that he is a capable starter. Based on this season’s play, Javier should have the edge for a starting spot, which leaves the question, what should the Astros do with Urquidy?

If Verlander walks, and Houston opts to keep a six-man rotation, then he just slides in and becomes starter No. 6. If Verlander stays, then is he willing to accept a role out of the bullpen, or do the Astros continue to use Brown out of the bullpen? Over the course of the season, both Brown and Urquidy will undoubtedly have chances to start throughout 2023.

Because of the long grind of an MLB schedule, the Astros should not trade whoever doesn’t get a starting role if Verlander stays, but how likely is it that it is even a problem for Houston? Regardless of who leaves or stays, the Astros should also continue with a six-man rotation because over the course of 162 games, it is what is best for your starters.

If the Astros bring back general manager James Click, based on how the Astros have seen players like George Springer and Carlos Correa walk in the past under his leadership, it is likely Verlander leaves Houston, but at the same time, many didn’t believe he was going to be back at all for 2022.

One thing is for sure, the Astros have a great problem to have. So many starting pitcher candidates, many of whom can be under team control for several years. So even if Verlander walks, an unforeseen injury happens, or a player ends up being disgruntled, Houston has more than enough flexibility to remain among the American Leagues’s best.

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