CODY STOOTS

Texans take a bus trip to first place in the AFC South; can the ride continue?

Jadeveon Clowney's motor has not stopped of late. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Texans are in first place in the AFC South and the 4-3 Dolphins are in town in just a few days for Thursday Night Football. We take a look at the Texans with three headlines, two questions, and one bet. 

Watson's New Wheels

Deshaun Watson traveled to the game against the Jaguars via bus. He did this because the training and medical staff were concerned about how flying would affect his injury. O'Brien made it clear they asked Watson about his preference and he wanted to play and so the team implemented the bus as a mode of travel. O'Brien joked they considered various options including Amtrack and buggy drawn by a horse. He said he didn't expect this to be a week to week endeavor for the team. 

The offensive line did their best job of the year protecting Watson allowing just one sack and five quarterback hits. 

"Oh no doubt," said right tackle Kendall Lamm when he was asked if the success rushing the ball slowed down the opposing pass rush. "When you can establish the run, especially in this league, when it's not the easiest thing to run on some of these defenses, it makes the edge rushers, especially from my standpoint, if I'm in a two-point stance he has to think am I going to come out and get him or am I going to pass that back. So, establishing the run is a major thing."

If the rushing attack can take some pressure off the passing game and the offensive line begins to solidify there are the makings of a very impressive offense. 

Clowney's Coming, and He Ain't Stopping

After a slow start to the season, Jadeveon Clowney has been on fire the past four games. Look below to see his damage. 

4.5 Sacks

3 Tackles for Loss (That weren't sacks)

10 Quarterback Hits

2 Fumble Recoveries (One for a touchdown)

That's a nasty little run! Clowney has also turned into Romeo Crennel's multi-use toy. You can see him lining up as an end, edge rusher standing up, and rushing from the inside of the defense as he uses his anticipation to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines. He is a force and opens things up for so many other defenders with his play even when he doesn't record a box score stat.

Brock is Back!

The Texans will face their former quarterback Brock Osweiler on Sunday barring Ryan Tannehill getting miraculously healthy before Thursday. He hasn't played poorly but there isn't anything spectacular about his two starts for Miami either. The Bears looked horrible against Osweiler allowing him almost 400 yards and three touchdowns but they did pick him off twice. Yesterday against the Lions he was serviceable. The offense looked vanilla and they took few chances. 

Bill O'Brien was polite when asked about his former signal caller. He touted Osweiler's success with the Dolphins saying he is "playing really well now" but said he doesn't get a ton of advantages from having coached Osweiler. O'Brien stressed it is a different system with different players around him.

Osweiler was the team's starter for the majority of 2016 after a hefty offseason investment in him as a free agent. He led the team to an 8-6 regular season record throwing 15 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. He also played quarterback for the team in their two playoff games throwing for 365 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions in his two games. In the offseason, he was traded to Cleveland with a second round pick. 

Is the rushing attack here to stay?

Lamar Miller had his first rushing game of 100 yards or more in 22 games. Alfred Blue punctuated his opportunities. The offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage against a talented Jaguars defense. The Miller rushing touchdown was the best play of the season for the right side of the offensive line as Nick Martin, Greg Mancz, and Kendall Lamm fired off the ball pushing back Jaguars defenders and clearing an easy path to a score for their running back. The hope is, it is here to stay. 

O'Brien was pleased with his rushing attack and stressed they have a focus each week of doing what they believe will work with their players against their opponent. The balance is also a hallmark of a successful O'Brien offensive attack. He and his offense operate best it seems with balance. It should continue against Miami. With Watson still dealing with his chest injuries, the rushing attack will be key in keeping him clean. Miami is one of the worst teams in the league at stopping the rush. The Lions just amassed 248 yards on the ground. Miami has lost three of their last four and they are giving up an average of 172.5 yards on the ground their last four games. 

Whitney Mercilus is back, right?

With a hamstring injury robbing him of training camp it was expected Whitney Mercilus would be slow to the pass rush party with this team. The first four games were less than stellar and had Mercilus doing some of the dirty work for this team like occupying blockers and setting the edge. Sunday, he got going like he used to again. His sack forced a fumble that was recovered by the Jaguars but his first forced fumble came as he cleaned up Blake Bortles on a rush and Clowney came up with the ball. 

He was coming off back-to-back double-digit sack years before last season's season-ending injury. If he is rounding into form adding him to Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt, who already are scary as a duo, will make for one of the fearsome rushes in the league. We might finally be getting to a point where we will see the pass-rushing trio many dreamed of seeing before last season started. 

I bet the Dolphins are the first team to get blown out by the Texans. Everything is setting up terrible for the Dolphins. They're on the road on a short week against one of the hottest teams in the NFL who just found their rushing attack. Oh, and the quarterback doesn't have to take a bus to the game to play in this one. Miami started fast but they're 1-3 in their past four and frankly should've lost the Bears game. Brock Osweiler has never handled pressure well and Thursday against his former team will be no different. It's his first, and likely only, shot at the Texans. The Texans defense knows what makes him tick. This should be a field day for them. 

 

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Houston is falling down the rankings

Tigers pound Odorizzi, Astros with homers as Houston drops fourth in a row

The Astros have not looked great in their last four games. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After watching their hot start of 6-1 cool down to a 6-4 record with three straight losses, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night, looking to do a better job at home against a beatable Tigers team.

Recent games' woes would continue, though, with Houston's pitching getting blasted by the opposing offense and their own bats primarily quiet.

Final Score: Tigers 8, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-5, tied for second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Matthew Boyd (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (0-1)

Astros score first, then Tigers unload on Odorizzi

Houston looked to have something brewing in the bottom of the second, with three singles in the first four batters of the inning, the third an RBI-single by Myles Straw to put the Astros in front 1-0. However, Matthew Boyd would limit the damage, getting back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.

After two easy innings for Jake Odorizzi in his regular-season debut for his new team, he would allow a game-tying solo homer to Akil Baddoo, his fourth of the year, in the top of the third. Detroit struck again in the top of the fourth, getting a leadoff double to set up a two-run go-ahead home run to jump ahead 3-1.

They didn't stop there, getting another two-run bomb later in the same inning; a frame that would take Odorizzi 31 pitches to get only one out before Houston would bring in Bryan Abreu to get the last two outs. Odorizzi's final line in his debut: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 0 BB, 4 K, 80 P.


Detroit continues home run parade, Houston loses fourth in a row

Abreu would hope to do what Luis Garcia did the night before, eat up as many innings as possible after a poor outing from Houston's starter. The Tigers would get yet another two-run homer, though, in the top of the fifth, extending their lead to 7-1, with all seven runs coming over a three-inning span. For good measure, they'd knock one more out with two outs in the top of the ninth, making it 8-1.

As far as Houston at the plate, other than their string of hits to bring in a run earlier in the second, they were getting nothing done against Boyd, who would go six and two-thirds innings. Detroit's bullpen would finish things off, despite an all-too-late sac fly by the Astros in the bottom of the ninth, with Houston dropping their fourth-straight game and continuing to lose ground in the division.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set with Detroit will be an hour earlier on Wednesday, getting underway at 6:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will try to maintain his perfect record and improve upon his two five-inning one-run starts for the Astros, going opposite of Michael Fulmer (0-0, 2.57 ERA) for the Tigers.

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