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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Zack Greinke earned his 10th win of the season in Sunday's finale agains the Rangers. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the first two wins of the series under their belt, the Astros entered Sunday looking to take care of business before heading on the road. Despite the Rangers taking the first lead of the day, the Astros responded on offense and defense to erase the deficit to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 3, Rangers 1

Astros' Record: 61-39, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (10-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dennis Santana (0-1)

Greinke, with some help, notches a quality start

Zack Greinke was doing well in the early goings of Sunday's finale. Despite allowing back-to-back singles to start the game, he stranded both runners to finish the top of the first. He followed that by erasing two more runners in the second, starting a stretch of eight straight batters which he would retire to make it through one out in the top of the fifth without allowing a run.

Texas finally added a blemish to his day at that point, getting a solo homer to grab their first lead in weeks. Greinke rebounded from it, sitting down the next two batters to finish the frame, then posted a 1-2-3 sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh, but would end his day with a struggle, loading the bases with no outs on a single, hit batter, and walk. That prompted Dusty Baker to bring in Cristian Javier, who saved Greinke's stat line by getting a strikeout and double play to keep the Rangers from scoring. Greinke's line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 86 P.

Houston grabs the lead

Houston's starter would leave in line for the win, thanks to the work of Cristian Javier, but also some timely offense in the two innings prior. With not much going for them in the first four innings, the Astros tried to take advantage of Chas McCormick being on base in the bottom of the fifth, sending him for a potential hit and run with Abraham Toro swinging.

That turned into two runs, with McCormick able to slow his run as Toro would launch a two-run go-ahead homer to erase the Rangers lead quickly. They extended the lead to two runs in the next inning, with Yordan Alvarez working a walk and then later scoring on an RBI single by Kyle Tucker, making it 3-1.

Astros finish the sweep

After cleaning up the inherited mess in the top of the seventh, Javier remained on the mound in the top of the eighth and made it through a 1-2-3 inning to give him six outs against five batters. With it still a two-run game in the top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save opportunity. He notched it, sitting down the Rangers 1-2-3 to finish the sweep, handing Texas their twelfth straight loss.

Up Next: The Astros will head out west for an eight-game road trip starting with a three-game set with the Mariners kicking off at 9:10 PM Central on Monday. In the opener, Luis Garcia (7-5, 2.86 ERA) for Houston is slated to go opposite Darren McCaughan (0-0, 1.80 ERA), who will make his second career appearance and first start for Seattle.

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