CHARLIE PALLILO

Texans in a good spot in AFC South if they can pull off win in Denver

The Texans added Demaryius Thomas. Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Texans’ strength of victory during their five game winning streak is not good. Big deal. From 0-3 to 5-3 is laudable. If the Texans just split their back-to-back road trips to Denver and Washington the AFC South should be theirs. However it’s only a meaningful division title if they then win a Wild Card round home game, then at least show well in the Divisional Round.

Regardless of how well it works out, credit to Texans’ General Manager Brian Gaine for acquiring wide receiver Demaryius Thomas from Denver. Thomas is past his prime but still should be a vast upgrade over any Texans’ wideout other than DeAndre Hopkins. Renting him for a fourth round pick carries a favorable risk/reward ratio, though it certainly doesn’t elevate the Texans to legit AFC Champion contenders. That will take being a top two AFC seed (unlikely), or at least winning a road playoff game for the first time in franchise history (doubtful at New England or Kansas City).

The Texan D Sunday gets after Bronco quarterback (and Texan and UH-ex) Case Keenum. So who do you believe: Keenum saying that Bill O’Brien told him he would never be more than an NFL third stringer, or O’Brien saying he would never tell any player such a thing? Keenum last season had a magical run with the Vikings highlighted by his miracle game winning touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs against the Saints in the playoffs. The magic disappeared when Keenum (and pretty much all Vikings) stunk the following week as the Eagles destroyed Minnesota in the NFC Championship Game.

The season overall set up Keenum financially for life, as the QB-desperate Broncos guaranteed him $25 million dollars in a two year $36 million dollar contract. Keenum has played poorly this season. He is the only guy in the NFL to throw at least one interception in all of his team’s games this season. Keenum will have to take a huge pay cut or more likely simply be cut after the season.

John Elway is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever live, but since Peyton Manning picked the Broncos Elway sure has been a blunderfest in quarterback decisions. The Texans made the massive gaffe of guaranteeing Brock Osweiler $37 million dollars, but don’t forget Elway offered Osweiler $30 mil. Elway used a 2016 first round pick on Paxton Lynch who is out of the NFL already. Now Keenum is probably one and done in Denver and will have made 25 mil for that one season.

Rough start

Calling the Rockets’ start to the season pathetic is disrespectful to the word pathetic. Mitigating circumstances exist. James Harden is not in peak playing condition. Chris Paul missing two games suspended. Of vastly lesser importance, James Ennis has been out. Mike D’Antoni keeps talking about how the Rockets have young and new players. As if they’re the only team with young and new players. And the Rockets don’t have any meaningful young players anyway.

What the Rockets do have is serious issues. That Chris Paul was awful against Portland is just a bad night, but that Paul is among the Rockets’ numerous defensive problems, is a real problem. A 33 year old Paul can not keep opposing guards in front of him. Carmelo Anthony is likely finished as a quality player. P.J. Tucker is a good role player but if you consistently need more from him, you’re up a certain creek without a paddle.

Collectively the Rockets have been a disgrace on defense. A switching defense can work beautifully with good, interchangeable players who care. Last season the Rocket D was regularly one of those defenses. Now it’s like a lousy pick-up team, where switching is a lazy way to shirk responsibility as much as it is strategy.

The new emphasis limiting contact off the ball hurts the Rockets big time. Slow and/or physical defenders can’t get away with nearly as much bumping and grabbing. Conversely, the Rockets aren’t helped offensively by the change because running isolation or pick and roll almost all the time, the Rockets have hardly any movement off the ball.

Last season the Rockets lost seven regular season home games total. This season they are 0-4 without coming remotely close to winning, the losses by 19, 11, 20, and 19 points. The season is still very early, but the Rockets’ window of bonafide title contention may be slamming on them amazingly quickly.

Respect for a legend

One can be a Hall of Famer and still be underappreciated. I think that was/is true of Willie McCovey who died Wednesday at 80 years old. McCovey’s career lacked the aura it deserved, largely because McCovey was overshadowed by playing through his prime with Willie Mays as a San Francisco Giant teammate.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Clocks back an hour Saturday night. Only night of the year Standard Time is preferred.  2. Just off the podium, Johnny Mize… 3. Greatest 1B in NL history: Bronze-Willie McCovey Silver-Jeff Bagwell  Gold-Albert Pujols


 

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Coming off one of the worst performances of the year, Lovie Smith met with the media and addressed some questions about if the Texans would make any changes to the team or coaching staff this week. Here are some quick observations.

1. Washington was just better. Before taking the first question, Lovie said after watching the film it was clear Washington was the better team on Sunday. The team didn't play well upfront (on offense) and didn't have much of a chance to win the game. He believed the team did some good things on defense and played the run better, but were unable to take the ball away.

2. Lovie made it seem like changes are definitely coming at QB. When asked if any changes would be made this week to the QB or the coaching staff, he basically said he would talk to the players before the media if changes were in the works. Smith said the players were off today and not in the building. He followed that up by saying, “We're not pleased with where we are. Do we need to do some things differently? Yes, and we will.”

3. Hitting that “rookie wall.” Coach Smith was asked if hitting the “rookie wall” could be causing some of the team's struggles. He brought up Kenyon Green's challenges at guard, admitting that taking a “pounding every time” can be tough. But if they have hit the rookie wall, he hasn't “noticed it.”

4. Sometimes you need a spark. When asked if football teams sometimes require a spark, he said yes. “Especially when you've lost as many games as we have.” Davis Mills and Kenyon Green have to be the first names that come to mind, and making a change on the o-line probably doesn't qualify as a spark.

5. At a certain point, you are who you are. Lovie didn't dance around it, he said “What's been put on video is probably who we are now, I acknowledge that.” This is the type of statement the fans really needed to hear. Owning up to what everyone can clearly see and addressing this head on matters. Most fans fully understand the team is in a rebuild, just be as honest as you can with everybody. Not doing this in the postgame press conference on Sunday, had to be a big part of why the media was coming at him with more conviction.

6. Expect Kenyon Green to keep playing despite Sunday's performance. This is why I believe a change will be made at QB this week, and not offensive guard. Lovie talked about if a player is struggling and he's still your best option, they'll have to get their “nose bloodied” and get better. No argument here. Green is a first round pick at guard, he's only going to get better if he plays. Give him some help if he needs it, but has to be out there. And let's face it, he is the best option at left guard.

7. Coaches decide who will play if there's going to be a change. When asked, Smith said the coaches decide who's playing. GM Nick Caserio and CEO Cal McNair will be in the loop, but coaches make the call on who starts.

8. “Kyle Allen can make all the throws.” Lovie was asked his thoughts on the Texans backup QB and said, “He (Allen) has a history of good play in the NFL.” When asked about Mills, he said he's seen some growth from the second-year QB, but it's hard to talk about how much someone has grown after yesterday. Yikes, that says it all right there.

Final thoughts

You really get a sense of the tone by watching the full presser above, so I do recommend it. I came away also feeling this possible switch to Kyle Allen may only last a week or so. But at this point in the season, everything has to be evaluated. Including OC Pep Hamilton. If Kyle Allen plays a game or two and the offense still stinks, some of the blame must fall on Pep. But if Allen plays well and long enough to where it doesn't look like the offense is the problem, you have your answer on Davis Mills. At least this season, anyway.

Of course, many fans want the Texans to finish the season with the worst record, so they get the first pick in the draft. If Kyle Allen does get to play and ends up winning a few games, it could be bittersweet. The Texans do have some cushion in the standings for the first pick. Hopefully, the team can get all their answers at QB and OC while still locking up the first pick in the draft. Alabama QB Bryce Young would be a nice Christmas present for Texans fans after a tough year.

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