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 gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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