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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Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

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