Texans-Patriots has a different feel, and making sense out of the Rockets' latest moves

The Patriots return to NRG this Sunday. Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

This time last year Patriots at Texans was so much more interesting. Now it's basically not interesting at all, from the Houston side anyway. The 2-7 Texans actually opened as favorites this week, though the wagering on the game soon changed that. The Texans should be favored over no one other than the Jaguars, Jets, and maybe at home vs. the Bengals or any NFC East team. Currently 4-5, this Patriots squad playing here Sunday is New England's worst in 20 years. Two years before the Texans played their first ever game is the last time the Patriots finished with a losing record. They closed 5-11 in 2000, Bill Belichick's first season as their head coach. The following season they launched a dynasty in winning Super Bowl XXXVI. This season New England must win out to get to 11-5. 2009 is the last time the Patriots didn't win at least 11. In the 10 years since they won at least 12 in nine of them. Ridiculous sustained excellence.

Riding with Rice?

Another double digit slate of college football games postponed this week because of coronavirus issues. The Longhorns, Aggies, and Cougars all are sidelined. Go Owls! Rice has played just two games thus far. The Owls are scheduled to play at North Texas Saturday. They are as I type this anyway.

The theoretical best college matchup of the week is third ranked Ohio State vs. number nine Indiana. The Buckeyes are favored by 20 and a half. Among division one schools none has lost more games all-time than the Hoosiers.

Rockets making money moves

The Rockets are not rudderless but one wonders how badly the rudder is mangled. Who knows how things play out with Russell Westbrook and more importantly James Harden, but this week's action leading up to and then through the NBA Draft speaks at least chapters if not volumes. When the Rockets traded Clint Capela back in February they claimed it was entirely a basketball move about being "all in" on "small ball." That was baloney then and it's baloney now. That it was in significant part basketball move, sure. But even pre-pandemic the financials played a role. At cost of a first round pick they had to include in the deal the Rockets got out of the three seasons more than 51 million dollars guaranteed on Capela's contract starting this season and took on Robert Covington who has two years roughly 24 million left. The financials have absolutely played a role in their moves since. Earlier this week the Rockets agreed to deal Covington to Portland for Trevor Ariza who has just one season 12.8 million coming. That actually seemed a decent deal with the Rockets getting the 16th pick in Wednesday's draft included. Then on draft day the Rockets cut a deal with Detroit to send Ariza and that number 16 pick, for zero in return that goes on the Rockets' books in 2020-21. The Rockets do get the Pistons' first round pick if it comes in 17th or lower any time over the next four years.

A twist of fate for George Springer?

Robinson Cano's second PED suspension, this one to cost him the entire 2021 season and his 24 million dollar salary, likely eradicates any shot he had at ever reaching the Baseball Hall of Fame. Strictly by on field results Cano was going to be an easy choice for Cooperstown. Cano played very well in the shortened 2020 season. Considering he was very unlikely to play that level in 2021, the Mets probably catch a big break getting out of Cano's money for the season. New Mets' owner Steve Cohen is worth an estimated 14 billion but billionaires don't like bad investments either, even if they can cover their losses by reaching between their sofa cushions. Bottom line is if Cohen wants to go on a free agent signing spree (think George Springer) he has 24 extra mil for 2021 with which to work. Cano has two years 48 million due over 2022 and 2023.

It's been very quiet on the Springer front. We'll see, but few think he returns to the Astros. The Blue Jays supposedly have the hots for George. If they're ready to pony up and Springer has any interest in them the White Sox still make the most sense to me.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Deshaun Watson said this week that Cam Newton has been his favorite quarterback. 20 years from now who will have had the better career? I like Deshaun in that one but remember that in the 2015 season Cam did win the NFL MVP award and lead the Panthers to a 15-1 record and Super Bowl appearance.

2. My favorite QB ever is the late great "Snake" Ken Stabler. That's Raider Ken Stabler, not Oiler Ken Stabler. And for goodness sakes not Saint Ken Stabler.

3. Most coveted Thanksgiving dinner side dishes: Bronze-cranberry sauce Silver-stuffing Gold-sweet potato casserole

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Watson's accusers appeared on Real Sports on Tuesday night. Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images.

HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’s heavily promoted and much anticipated examination of Deshaun Watson’s legal mess involving alleged sexual misconduct shed little new light and merely presented a summary of well worn he said/she (x22) said accusations and denials.

The episode debuted Tuesday night on the premium cable service and will be repeated dozens of times throughout the week on HBO’s platforms. Check your local listings for times and channel.

The segment was hosted by Soledad O’Brien who presented compelling face-to-face interviews with two of the quarterback’s accusers: massage therapists Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes. Their stories were detailed and graphic. Both cried during the interviews.

Solis: “As I’m working, he deliberately grabs himself and put his penis on my hand. I pulled my hand away instantly and I started crying. I told that I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Solis said she felt threatened when Watson, before leaving the session, allegedly told her: “I know you have a career to protect, and I know that you don’t want anyone messing with it, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

Solis added, “That’s when I got really scared because that sounded like a threat to me.”

Hayes: “He wanted me to kind of make a V motion in his pelvic area. I just kept massaging and did what he asked, until his penis kept touching me repeatedly as I did it.”

Hayes said that Watson had an orgasm, which she said was “mortifying, embarrassing and disgusting.”

O’Brien asked Hayes why she continued to have contact via email with Watson after their encounter.

Hayes: "I wasn't sure what he was capable of. He could've physically assaulted me. He could've bashed my business, so I had to protect myself and my business the best way I saw fit. Did I ever see him again after that? No. Did I give him the runaround? Yes."

O’Brien pointed out that two separate grand juries in Texas heard criminal accusations against Watson and neither found enough evidence to indict him.

Solis and Hayes, and 20 other massage therapists have filed civil suits against Watson. The cases aren’t expected to reach a courtroom until next March. Both sides could reach a settlement before then which would effectively shut down any legal action against Watson. However, both sides say they aren’t interested in any pretrial settlements. That’s what they say now, anyway.

After being banished to the sidelines for the 2021 season by the Houston Texans, Watson signed a historic, 5-year fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Hayes said she feels Watson “is being rewarded for bad behavior." Solis said, "It's just like a big screw you. That's what it feels like. That we (the Browns) don't care. He can run and throw, and that's what we care about.”

Watson currently is participating in preseason workouts with the Browns and, at the moment, is cleared to play the upcoming NFL season.

That is unless the NFL suspends Watson for some, most or all of the 2022 season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is nearing completion of its independent investigation into Watson’s case and will reach a decision “shortly,” probably this summer. The NFL and NFL Players Association mutually agreed to have former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson decide whether or not Watson violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and what discipline should be handed down if he did.

The Browns are scheduled to play the Texans on Dec. 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

O’Brien said, while producing the Real Sports piece, she tried to interview Watson, his attorneys and the Cleveland Browns for their side of the story. All declined.

During a press conference in March to announce his joining the Browns, Watson denied any inappropriate behavior with the massage therapists.

Watson: “I never assaulted any woman. I’ve never disrespected any woman. I was raised to be genuine and respect everyone around me. I’ve never done the thing that these people are alleging. My mom and my aunties didn’t raise me that way.”

Leah Graham, a member of Watson’s legal team, sat for an interview after O’Brien’s segment was complete.

Graham: "It's 22 women. It's one lawyer. There's only one lawyer who was willing to take these cases. And as we know from Ashley Solis’ deposition, Mr. (Houston attorney Tony) Buzbee was not the first, probably not the second or third lawyer she went to, but he was the only one to take her case. Why? Not because it had merit, but because he would use these cases to increase his social media following and quite frankly to get on shows like this one.”

My reaction after watching the Real Sports segment? We weren’t in the room when the massage therapists worked on Watson. We weren’t in the grand jury room when evidence against Watson was presented. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know what will happen if these cases go to trial.

Until then all we have is one big, lurid, embarrassing mess. In American courtrooms, defendants are presumed innocent. That’s often the opposite in the court of public opinion. We’ll just have to wait while the wheels of justice grind painfully slow.

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