Texans 20, Jaguars 3

Texans clinch AFC South after 20-3 win over Jaguars

Benardrick McKinney and the defense came up big. Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Texans clinched the AFC South title with Sunday's 20-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars and now wait to see who their first playoff opponent will be. It started slowly for Houston's offense with the usual three-and-out to start the game, but they turned it around quickly with another stellar performance from Deshaun Watson and never looked back. It helped that the Texans' defense completely shut down Jacksonville's offense, whose only points were a field goal after a Houston special teams fumble that the Jaguars recovered at the Houston 10-yard line.

J.J. Watt and the defense got pressure on Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles early and often, including Watt's league-leading seventh forced fumble of the season. He finished the game with a half sack, giving him 15 for the season, and four seasons of 15 plus sacks in his career. Bortles finished the game with only 107 yards passing and the Jaguars offense managed only 119 total yards of offense.

Houston's offense didn't put up a lot of points on the scoreboard, but they didn't need to. They had a bad series inside the red zone after five plays on their second possession put them inside the 20. They made it first and goal at the five-yard line and two plays later looked like they had a touchdown run by Watson. Upon review, he was ruled down at the 1-yard line. They failed to punch it in on third down and were forced to settle for a field goal, the 36th one made by Ka'imi Fairbairn this season and a team record for most in a season. He added number 37 in the fourth quarter and with the two extra points he made, he added to his league leading points scored total to finish with 150.

While the defense was dominating Jacksonville in the first half, the Texans were able to string together two touchdown drives of 51 and 63 yards to go up 17-3 at the break. The first one came after the special teams made up for their earlier turnover that gave the Jaguars three points. After a three-and-out forced a Houston punt, and it was muffed by Jacksonville's returner Dede Westbrook and linebacker Zach Cunningham secured it at the Houston 49-yard line. Watson led a quick four play drive that he finished himself with a five-yard touchdown run. Later in the second quarter, the offense put together a nine play, four-and-a-half-minute drive that ended with Lamar Miller lowering his shoulder for a seven-yard touchdown.

All of the Texans' offensive success ran through Watson, but he got a lot of help from one of best wide receivers in all of football, DeAndre Hopkins. Watson ended the game 25 of 35 for 234 yards and a rushing touchdown and 12 of those completions went to Hopkins, who turned them into 147 yards. That's almost 50% of the passing game going through Hopkins. He didn't score today but he made everything Houston did possible. His season ends with 115 receptions (tied for franchise record with Andre Johnson), 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns.

It wasn't a complete success though. Watson had a rough day behind his offensive line. He was sacked six times, for a total of 62 this season, the most an NFL quarterback has taken since 2006. Offensively Bill O'Brien has been playing with fire regarding Watson's health. The quarterback's running ability has been great for the offense and Watson again led the team in rushing today; but with the sacks and 13 rushing attempts he takes a lot of hits. His arm helped him finish the season with 4,165 yards passing and 26 touchdowns while his legs led to 551 yards and five touchdowns, the second leading rusher on the team. Lamar Miller led the team on the ground for the season, finishing with 973 yards and four touchdowns.

It was a great win for the Texans, who finish the season 11-5, after a 4-12 record just a season ago. They have secured their division again and hope for losses by the Chargers and Chiefs to get a bye next week. Barring that, they are the third seed and will have a home playoff game next weekend.

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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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