Broncos 38, Texans 24

Texans vs Broncos: Good, bad and ugly

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After last week's win, the Texans followed it up pooping the bed by losing to the going nowhere fast Broncos at home in dramatic fashion. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Carlos Hyde had 73 yards rushing and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Yay.

-DeAndre Hopkins had seven catches for 120 yards and a touchdown. Whoopie.

-Keke Coutee must be out of the doghouse because he had five catches for 68 yards. Good for him.

The Bad

-Covering tight ends continues to be an Achilles heel for this team. Bronco tight ends combined for six catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie Noah Fant did most of the damage. Jonathan Joseph whiffed on a play on the ball and Fant took that pass 48 yards. That sparked the downfall on the Broncos first possession.

-Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock went 16/19 for 235 yards and three touchdowns...IN THE FIRST HALF! In comparison, future Hall of Famer Tom Brady was 7/19 for 82 yards no touchdowns and an interception in last week's first half. Lock finished 22/27 for 309 yards.

-Laremy Tunsil got caled for 317 penalties, while Lonnie Johnson Jr was called for 246. A little hyperbole isn't far from the truth considering how many times both guys were responsible for Texans' penalties. This team continues to have a penchant for dumbass penalties.

The Ugly

-Keke Coutee was finally active and appeared to make a couple plays early. However, he fumbled on his second catch of the game and the Broncos recovered. The salt in the wound: Kareem Jackson took a hand off from Jeremiah Attaochu and scored on the fumble return.

-With 6:27 left in the 3rd quarter, the Broncos ran 39 plays, scored 38 points, had only 38 rushing yards and had barely had the ball for 20 minutes. The Texans brought a new meaning to defensive inefficiency this game.

-How ugly did this game get? Courtesy of @Dune_in_Katy, he took a video of the parking lot exit very early on in the 3rd quarter. I don't blame the fans not one bit for leaving that early. The game was 38-3 if I'm not mistaken. A five touchdown deficit at home to a 4-8 team when you're a division leader is beyond pitiful.

WTF WAS THAT?!? Building on wins is a part of becoming a true contender. Not if you're the Houston Texans. This was the typical piss the bed type of performance we've seen from this team time and again. It's not like they were going against an all star team. Von Miller was hobbled and looked like he was maybe 75% or so. Lock is a rookie quarterback, not a perennial All Pro! This was all too familiar: making a big statement, only to have runny diarrhea while wearing a custom-made suit. When is this team going to take two steps forward without taking two steps back? I'm not saying it's time for the fans to stop supporting this franchise, but they expect and deserve better for all the years they've remained loyal. Just when Bill O'Brien gets some credit, he goes and falls off the wagon. Honestly, most of this could and should be on Romeo Crennel because of his play calling on defense. O'Brien gets blame because he's the Grand Poobah of all things Texans. So much for a 12 win season. They better look to winning the division and that starts next week against the Titans.

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Cristian Javier has proven he's a quality starting pitcher. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2022 regular season is nearing its end and while for the Houston Astros the true test will begin in the postseason, now is a good time to look ahead at what the team’s starting rotation could look like in 2023.

The big question will be whether long-time ace Justin Verlander returns to the team. Heading into 2022, there was doubt whether he would even be with the Astros coming off Tommy John surgery. Verlander re-signed with Houston on a two-year deal with a player option for 2023.

His production in 2022 has been nothing short of sensational. Verlander has the most wins for the Astros with a week left in the season. He has a 1.82 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 5.2 wins above replacement. More importantly for both Verlander and the Astros, is that he has played in 26 games and counting this season.

Whether Verlander remains with the Astros will likely depend on whether Houston is willing to spend. It is highly likely Verlander opts out of his player option following the strong 2022 campaign he has put together and looks for a bigger payday. Houston has shown it is not afraid to let key players walk in the offseason, so let’s take a look at a potential rotation with and without Verlander.

If the 39-year-old, who will be 40 by the time the 2023 regular season starts, stays with the Astros, he will undoubtedly be either the No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher in the rotation along with Framber Valdez, who is right behind Verlander in wins this season at 16. If Verlander leaves, Valdez should be the new Astros ace at No. 1.

Behind those two should be pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who in seven games in 2022 has a 2.38 ERA and has cooled the concerns about his right flexor tendon strain being a long-term concern. He suffered the injury last postseason.

After those three, things begin to get interesting. Let’s say Houston opts to stay with a six-man rotation. The fourth starter could be Luis Garcia, who has a 3.90 ERA in 2022. The 25-year-old has shown he is more than a capable starter for the Astros.

The big question is if Hunter Brown can lock himself a spot in the rotation. Numbers wise, he makes a solid case to be more than Houston’s fifth starter as he has garnered 1.13 ERA through four appearances and two starts.

Brown’s starts have been against the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, so there is a bit of a caveat there, but the upside undoubtedly should put him in the conversation for a starting role in 2023.

If Verlander leaves Houston, it should be more of a guarantee that a spot in the rotation as a starter for Brown is locked. Another factor in whether Brown is a starter could be if the Astros keep Dusty Baker as manager. Baker has shown at times he is willing to side with veterans over younger talent.

Other factors in Brown’s role will also be Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier. Urquidy has a 3.88 ERA in 28 games, all of which have been starts. Javier has a 2.65 ERA in 29 appearances, 24 of which have been starts.

Javier’s role for the Astros the last couple of years has involved starting and coming out of the bullpen, but this season he has shown that he is a capable starter. Based on this season’s play, Javier should have the edge for a starting spot, which leaves the question, what should the Astros do with Urquidy?

If Verlander walks, and Houston opts to keep a six-man rotation, then he just slides in and becomes starter No. 6. If Verlander stays, then is he willing to accept a role out of the bullpen, or do the Astros continue to use Brown out of the bullpen? Over the course of the season, both Brown and Urquidy will undoubtedly have chances to start throughout 2023.

Because of the long grind of an MLB schedule, the Astros should not trade whoever doesn’t get a starting role if Verlander stays, but how likely is it that it is even a problem for Houston? Regardless of who leaves or stays, the Astros should also continue with a six-man rotation because over the course of 162 games, it is what is best for your starters.

If the Astros bring back general manager James Click, based on how the Astros have seen players like George Springer and Carlos Correa walk in the past under his leadership, it is likely Verlander leaves Houston, but at the same time, many didn’t believe he was going to be back at all for 2022.

One thing is for sure, the Astros have a great problem to have. So many starting pitcher candidates, many of whom can be under team control for several years. So even if Verlander walks, an unforeseen injury happens, or a player ends up being disgruntled, Houston has more than enough flexibility to remain among the American Leagues’s best.

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