THE PALLILOG

Texans-Jags leaves a lot to be desired, and George Springer may have gotten good news

Springer could be closer to a big payday. Photo by Bob Levey /Stringer/Getty Images

Not the busiest of sports weeks around here. Or anywhere. If COVID had never happened or at least had magically disappeared back in the spring, we'd have the new NBA season underway. Alas, we'll have to wait until Christmas week to get pro hoops going again.

This Sunday's Texans at Jaguars matchup looms as one of the least interesting games in franchise history, if not one of the least interesting games in NFL history. Evidently Cal McNair doesn't see it that way. Suckling at the teat of in-house Texans Radio earlier this week, Cal termed himself "extremely optimistic" and opined that the rest of the season "is going to be fun." There's a difference between optimistic and detached from reality. I guess the rest of the season can be fun, given an alternative of being stuck in an elevator until Thanksgiving. Sunday's matchup is a pair of 1-6 teams going nowhere. Vastly more interesting matchups in the noon window Sunday include Ravens at Colts, Bears at Titans, and Seahawks at Bills.

The NFL trade deadline came and went with the Texans doing nothing other than trading a defensive lineman who never played a snap for them for a seventh round draft pick in 2022. Yippee! Whatever confused or inert state of the Texans' football operations at the moment, they didn't screw up the deadline. The Texans had very few players of any interest to anybody. If they could have given away wide receiver Kenny Stills for the more than three million dollars in salary cap savings that would have been gained, not doing so was stupid. I give the Texans the benefit of the doubt that no team wanted to pay Stills the balance left on his seven million dollar salary. If the best offer for Will Fuller was a fourth round pick, not dealing him was a reasonable call. If the Texans wouldn't take a third for Fuller? Silly. What other viable trade candidates did the Texans have that would generate A. interest and B. a worthy return? Answer: none other than J.J. Watt, who the Texans were presumably too scared to trade. As if the Texans' fan base would have marched on NRG Stadium in protest.

The old college try

Having a hard time getting engrossed in the college football season? Texas and the rest of the Big 12 are already essentially eliminated from any shot at the playoff. Texas A&M should win its next four games which would have the Aggies 8-1 heading to Auburn for their season finale. Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State seem a cut above the field. 9-1 Aggies with the lone loss to Bama would have a better claim than undefeated Cincinnati or BYU. If an Ag wanting to think big, root for Florida to beat Georgia Saturday and for Trevor Lawrence-less Clemson to win at Notre Dame.

Meet the Mets?

The pandemic economy probably results in the Major League Baseball free agent market moving sluggishly. George Springer will certainly have his suitors. He may have gotten very good news with the final approval of the sale of the New York Mets to reeeeeally rich guy Steve Cohen. Reeeeeally rich meaning estimated net worth 14 billion dollars, by far the richest of all current MLB owners. Cohen did not buy a team for it to be a Big Apple afterthought to the Yankees. While the team was no good, the Mets actually got excellent outfield production in the shortened 2020 season. An important variable in a Mets' pursuit of Springer may be if and when this offseason the National League permanently adopts the designated hitter it used in 2020. Four good outfielders work just fine with a DH spot to be rotated among them.

Even if the Mets have no Springer interest, as I have noted before the Cardinals, Nationals, Giants, are all legit playoff hopeful teams and well-heeled franchises who would make sense. I presume Dallas Keuchel would agree that the White Sox would be a great fit. And never rule out the Yankees, though pitching should be their upgrade emphasis.

Writer Ben Reiter (he of the Astrodamus 2017 World Series Champs prediction) over the past six weeks has been releasing a podcast series called "The Edge" digging deeper into the Astros' cheating and culture of the era, in part wondering how he missed any clues about it while granted insider access in writing his "Astroball" book. Fired Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow was the main subject this week. One nugget I found interesting/amusing: Luhnow says Jim Crane fired him in a 29 second phone conversation. That was January 13. They have not spoken since.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. It's not surprising that Houston weather is beautiful this time of year, but it sure is working out nicely for the first Houston Open at renovated Memorial Park.

2. George Costanza: "It's not a lie, if you believe it." George was full of it. Lies are lies.

3. Most famous clowns: Bronze-Krusty Silver-Ronald McDonald Gold-Bozo

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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