3 headlines, 2 questions, 1 bet

Texans face tough test in Denver against struggling Broncos

Is Deshaun Watson really back? Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Texans are riding the third-longest winning streak in the NFL as they head to Denver this weekend to take on the Broncos. 

Broncos wounded, still ready to run

The Denver Broncos are losers of five of their last six games. They can see their chances of competing in the AFC slipping away. They are considering trading key players on their team before tomorrow's deadline. Ownership is in a legal battle off the field for control of the team. John Elway is under fire for his inability to draft a quarterback. 

The Denver Broncos should scare the hell out of the Houston Texans. 

It may seem like a team in shambles and may resemble one if the rumored trades start happening, but make no mistake the Broncos are a much tougher matchup than they seem. Just go ask the two best offenses in football. 

The Rams and the Chiefs, Kansas City twice, put out their lowest scoring outputs of the season. Now, Denver lost all those games, but to hold those teams to so few points compared to their other output is eye-catching. There's still plenty of talent on the defense and their offense, led by undrafted free agent Philip Lindsay, can score enough if the defense is stout. 

The Texans take the No. 3 offense in football into this game. But, it's an injured offense. About those injuries...

Health a concern for third-best offense

Will Fuller's replacement doesn't exist on the Texans. There is not one person who can replicate the skills and success he had on the field. The two guys who will try are Sammie Coates and Vyncint Smith. Each of them impressed enough in camp to earn Braxton Miller a ticket out of town. They have since caught two passes. 

Neither has had much playing time this year. Coates was hurt to start the year but has contributed on special teams. Smith played a little early but hasn't earned time on the field since. I'm a little surprised Coates hasn't found his way onto the field more this year considering his success in August. 

Expect the Texans to send more passes the tight ends and the hopefully healthy Keke Coutee's way. Coates and Smith will have to be on the field at some point it will be interesting to see who wins out in practice ahead of Sunday's game. 

Health also a concern for defense

The defense has its fair share of dings. The cornerback position will be interesting going forward. Johnathan Joseph is likely to miss Denver if his reported leg injury is true. Kevin Johnson isn't ready to return from the injured reserve and Aaron Colvin is still hurting. There's a chance Shareece Wright is back for Denver though. 

If Wright makes it back, and Joseph shortly after that for the Washington game and with Colvin on the horizon the Texans may try to piece the position together. The safeties have been incredible for the Texans this year. With Justin Reid's emergence, Kareem Jackson can moonlight at his former position for a few more snaps while the secondary gets right. This may call for a practice squad addition. Andre Chachere is the lone cornerback there currently. 

Is Deshaun Watson "back" for good?

Dazzling and efficient would be a good start when describing what Watson accomplished against the Dolphins on Thursday Night Football. The run game getting going made for a much easier night for the Texans quarterback. He played with the most poise we have seen recently. If this level of play, not the stats but the level, is here to stay the Texans are going to rip teams to shreds. Watson learns quick. Now is his task is to learn how to replicate that under-control and smooth success against a tough opponent on the road. 

Will the Texans make a trade?

There are certain holes on this team, permanent and short-term, that a trade could help. Pass catchers are available in all shapes and sizes. DeVante Parker of the Dolphins, Demaryius Thomas of the Broncos, and Pierre Garçon of the 49ers to name a few. With Will Fuller's ACL injury being a year-long endeavor, and maybe more, it would make sense to chase a wideout over say a cornerback. The problem is the Texans have holes that need filling in the long run that isn't wideout and chasing any of the above would cost draft picks. It isn't out of the question but I find it hard to believe the Texans can make a significant trade for a name that would excite.

I bet the Texans don't make a trade for a big name but add something. There are just too many questions right now about the depth on this team for them to not make a move. The free agent market is picked over so it makes sense to find someone for a later pick that can help you. I don't believe the first or second round picks would be in play but for the right move, a third-round selection could be useful. 

 

 

 

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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