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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's bats have a hot night

Astros clobber Rangers to win series opener

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After dropping two of three in Seattle, the Astros entered the regular season's final series still waiting to clinch their playoff berth. Luckily their matchup favored them, with four games against the 19-37 Rangers, which they have done well against in recent years. Here are highlights from the opener:

Final Score: Astros 12, Rangers 4.

Record: 29-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA).

Astros put up 10 on Lynn 

Houston had no trouble getting acquainted with the Rangers' new stadium, jumping out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. After a lengthy at-bat against Lance Lynn, Jose Altuve reached on a one-out single, then scored from first on a two-out RBI-triple by Alex Bregman. They'd double their lead in the next at-bat on an error, making it 2-0.

They extended that lead even more in the next inning, getting back-to-back singles to start the inning to set up a big three-run dinger by George Springer to straightaway center-field to make it 5-0. Bregman added two more RBI to his night in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on a leadoff single by Michael Brantley by hitting a two-run homer to make it a 7-0 lead. Altuve would push the total to double-digits in the top of the sixth, lifting a three-run home run of his own to make it a 10- lead.

Javier with a decent start, bullpen closes out the win

Meanwhile, Cristian Javier was doing well on the mound against the Rangers. He allowed just three baserunners through the first five innings, a double in the first, a hit batter in the second, and a single in the fifth. He would falter a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff single then a two-run homer, then later in the inning a sac fly, making it 10-3 before Houston would turn to their bullpen. Javier's final line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 95 TP.

Luis Garcia would get the final out of the sixth then returned for the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff double that would score on a two-out RBI-double, making it a six-run game before Garcia finished the frame. Brooks Raley was the next reliever and notched two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.

Josh Reddick gave Houston two more insurance runs, joining the home run barrage with a two-run homer in the top of the inning to make it 12-4 going to the bottom half. Brandon Bielak was given a low-leverage opportunity to throw in the bottom of the ninth. He erased a two-out double for a scoreless inning to wrap up the lopsided win, lowering Houston's magic number to 1.

Up Next: The second game of this four-game set between Houston and Texas will start Friday at 7:05 PM Central at Globe Life Field. The pitching battle will be Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53 ERA) for the Rangers and Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78 ERA) for the Astros.

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