THE PALLILOG

Texans go deep with Hopkins, and it pays off

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Off Sunday's humiliation in Baltimore beating the Colts was a quality bounce back for the Texans Thursday night. Neither team looked like a Super Bowl threat, and the prospect of the Texans winning another AFC South championship excites very few as a stand alone achievement. Still, if the Texans are to ever notably break through in the playoffs, being in the playoffs is a prerequisite. The Texans are now probable to secure another one of those cute little AFC South Champion banners.

I said on the radio this week that it was lame that the Texans offensive scheme had largely reduced DeAndre Hopkins to a possession receiver. Through the first 10 games D-Hop wasn't even averaging 10 yards per reception (9.9). His low for a full season is 12.2, second lowest 13.7. 35 and 30 yard touchdown receptions vs. Indy later, the words "about time" come to mind. About time in giving their best player a chance to make catches downfield once in a while.

At 7-4, the Texans last regular season game against a good team is vs. the Patriots a week from Sunday. Even if they do their usual and lose to the Pats, the Texans should win 10 games and for a sixth time in nine years their division. Over the last quarter of the schedule anything less than 3-1 would be something on the spectrum from disappointing to epic failure (should it cost them a playoff spot): two games with the currently 5-5 Titans, a home game vs. the 3-7 Broncos, and a road game at the 3-7 Buccaneers.

State of dismay

Except for Baylor and SMU (both 9-1!), what a crappola FBS Texas college football season is winding down.

Tom Herman's third season at Texas stands at a mediocre 6-4 heading into Saturday's game at Baylor. The Longhorns have no individually horrible losses, but TCU and Iowa State are nothing special, and they barely beat Kansas. UT's season makes a punchline of Sam Ellinger's "We're baaaaaack!" proclamation after last season's Sugar Bowl win. Mack Brown's third season in Austin produced the first of what would be 10 consecutive seasons finishing in the top 13 of the final AP poll.

Jimbo Fisher is in his second season at Texas A&M. The Aggies are a hollow 7-3 heading into Saturday's game at Georgia. The Aggies' three losses all came to excellent teams: Clemson, Alabama, and Auburn. But they weren't substantially competitive in any of those games. The Aggies seven wins have come over not bowl eligible squads, though Mississippi State could get to 6-6! If the Aggies don't pull a major upset at Georgia or next weekend at LSU, Fisher's second season is a definite disappointment. His first season in Aggieland high point was the seven overtime thrilling victory over LSU. Contrast the Aggies with the Tigers 12 months later.

Dana Holgorsen's first season at UH is a stink bomb, Mike Bloomgren's second at Rice has one win. TCU, Texas Tech, North Texas, UTSA, UTEP. Not one winning record in the bunch.

Fuss about Russ

Russell Westbrook is one of my top 10 all-time NBA favorite players to watch. That doesn't change the reality that his three point shooting is lousy and despite the Rockets' bombs away system he should basically stop shooting threes. Westbrook is literally the worst volume NBA three point shooter ever. Four of the last five seasons he has failed to crack 30 percent. 30 percent stinks! So far this season, West"brick" checks in at a sub-awful 22.7 percent. It's going to be a problem for the Rockets in trying to win at the championship level. On the plus side, Westbrook is a one man fast break who has elevated the Rockets from being one of the slowest tempo offenses to one of the fastest.

If you'd like to live in Edmond Oklahoma about 20 minutes from downtown Oklahoma City, Westbrook is selling his mansion there. Approximately 8400 square feet, it can be yours for $1,695,000! He's selling at a loss. Westbrook owns a 9000 square foot palace in the ritzy Brentwood area of Los Angeles, for which he paid a reported $19,750,000.

Big Bang coming

With the state of their payroll the Astros weren't going to spend much in free agency regardless this offseason, but it can't help that Jim Crane and his ownership partners are probably looking at a seven figure fine when Major League Baseball lowers the boom after its investigations of Astro cheating schemes, and the organization's indefensibly horrible handling of the Brandon Taubman fiasco. And it sure seems like it is when that boom is lowered, not if.

Buzzer beaters

1. If only Will Fuller wasn't so darn fragile. A healthy Fuller is a dynamic threat. 2. At this point in his contract who is more overpaid, Herman at six mil per season or Fisher at seven and a half? 3. Greatest Sports Leonards: Bronze-Dutch (the better one) Silver-Kawhi Gold-Sugar Ray

Friday the 13th. Triskaidekophobes' worst nightmare. It's silliness. Like believing in the Texans as Super Bowl contenders.

So how did the Texans go from toppling the 10-1 Patriots one Sunday, to having the 4-8 Broncos humiliate them the next? That is what mediocrity is all about, Houston Texans style. Imagine how ugly it would have gotten had the Broncos not had to deal with the intimidation factor of playing under a closed roof on a gorgeous autumn afternoon. There was a surprising number of no shows for an 8-4 home team off of two quality wins. Coincidence? Certainly not entirely. Ticket holders who opted to stay away joined essentially the entire team in no-showing.

With their record 8-5 the odds still favor the Texans making the playoffs. Winning two of the remaining three games does the job (and secures other one of those cute little AFC South Champion banners!). Of course, the odds favored the Texans not trailing 31-3 at home at halftime to a Broncos' team that hadn't scored more than 24 points in any game all season. Winning one to finish 9-7 could mean a Wild Card. Yippee!

They are only three point underdogs at Tennessee Sunday. If the Texans' feeble pass rush can't pick it up the Texans' D figures to be D-stroyed again. Ryan Tannehill's career revival with the Titans has been astounding. What reasonable person would have believed that entering this game Tannehill would be playing better quarterback than Deshaun Watson over the last month? Defending Derrick Henry's power running is a big problem, and that has made Tannehill devastating in the play action passing game. Good chance the Texans will need to score more than 28 points to win. They last did so eight games ago in their 31-24 victory at Kansas City. The Titans look like the better team right now, but week to week in the NFL who knows.

As I put it on the radio show earlier this week, in an either or scenario which would you prefer: the Texans do win their division, maybe win a wild card weekend home game, and if they do then take a shot at not getting crushed at Baltimore again. OR…the Texans lose twice to the Titans, lose in Tampa, tumbling from 8-4 to an 8-8 playoff miss and Cal McNair decides to fire Bill O'Brien?

Tough spell for Astros

Given that Oakland wasn't a possibility, Gerrit Cole picking the Yankees is the Astros' worst case scenario. If you're thinking nine years 324 million dollars is nuts, of course nine years is crazy long, but the Yankees are a money printing machine. Forbes magazine estimate for 2018 had the Yankees generating roughly 300 million dollars more in revenue than did the Astros.

Another bottom line: with Cole the Yankees are markedly better, without him the Astros are markedly worse.

The Astros are in a payroll bind, hence the trade Carlos Correa rumblings. In isolation, trading Correa would be dumb. Yes he has proven brittle. But Correa is also super-talented, 25 years old, and for two more years in Major League Baseball terms, dirt cheap. Trade Correa for what? A desperate play to escape the 13 million dollar anvil that is Josh Reddick's 2020 contract? Offered for nothing in return the Astros have no takers for Reddick. As a must take in a Correa deal, Reddick would drive down the return the Astros could get.

The Astros would be seeking a cheap, multi-years team-controlled stud young starting pitcher for Correa. They're not getting one for him. Guys like the Dodgers' Walker Buehler, the Cardinals' Jack Flaherty, the Braves Mike Siroka, the Indians Shane Bieber, those teams wouldn't swap their guy for Correa straight up. They'd laugh at an Astro offer of Correa and Reddick. Reds' starter Luis Castillo's name has been thrown against the wall. He's had one really good full big league season. At 27 years old, Castillo isn't eligible for arbitration until 2021. Why would the Reds trade him for Correa who can walk as a free agent after the 2021 season? Mets starter Noah Syndegaard? Probably not available, and he can become a free agent the same time as Correa.

It's always easy to burn someone else's money, but the Astros' best play is keeping Correa and swallowing the Reddick 13 mil if necessary, rather than taking 70 cents on the dollar back in a trade. Jim Crane and his partners can make back any loss in profit margin during this Astros' window of excellence by cutting costs when the next rebuilding time comes around and/or by selling the team down the line for several times the 610 million dollars they paid to buy it.

Buzzer Beaters

1. If you can get a ticket, UH-Oklahoma St. at Fertitta Center is the place to be Sunday afternoon. 2. The NBA has captivated very few around here so far this season, but the relentlessness of James Harden's scoring pace (37.6 points per game) is stupefying. 3. Absurd actual phobias: Bronze-Somniphobia, fear of sleep Silver-Cherophobia, fear of happiness Gold-Arachibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth


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