JERMAINE EVERY'S GOOD, BAD AND UGLY

Texans vs. Patriots observations

Tyrann Matthieu was a bright spot. Zach Tarrant, Houston Texans team Web site

The Texans opened the season with a dud of a loss to the Patriots. Losing 27-20 in the season opener on the road to the team that was the Super Bowl runner up is nothing but a moral victory. Last time I checked, those don’t factor into the playoff run. Let’s take a look at some general pbservations:

The Good

-The running game looked solid. 154 yards on 33 carries for 4.7 yards per carry average as a team. Lamar Miller really stood out with his performance. He totaled 98 yards on 20 carries. If they can keep this up all year, it’ll help them to a winning record.

-Tyrann Mathieu, aka Honey Badger, paid immediate dividends. He picked off Tom Brady and recovered a Rob Gronkowski fumble. He’s had a reputation for being a playmaker since his days at LSU, which continued in the NFL. He’s the early leader in the clubhouse for biggest free agency steal this past offseason.

- JJ Watt showed flashes of being his old self. First half, he looked slow, as if he was still adjusting to game speed. Second half, he made a play to chase down a Patriots ball carrier for a short gain. Again he showed flashes when he beat the right tackle and pressured Tom Brady into an incompletion while nearly getting a sack. He finally got a sack with just over six minutes left in the game.

The Bad

-The trend of not converting third downs in close games continued today. 2 for 11 isn’t exactly a winning formula. They also traded two early Patriots touchdowns with field goals of their own. These two key components have spelled doom for teams with losing ways since the beginning of time and the Texans are the epitome of this formula.

-Deshaun Watson was off all game. He was 17 of 34 for 176 yards, one interception, one touchdown, three sacks, and a 62.9 passer rating is a recipe for disaster. The most bothersome part of his performance was his inaccuracy. He missed badly on some passes that should have been completions.

-DeAndre Hopkins ended the game with eight catches for 78 yards on 11 targets. However, the Texans didn’t get him going until late in the second quarter. A couple times he was hung out to dry by Watson’s throws. You have to get your go-to guy going early in the game, not after you’re down by two scores.

The Ugly

-Fumbling on the very first play of the game was not how Watson envisioned getting the season started. That play led to an easy Patriots score. You don’t beat Brady by giving him extra bullets. To make things worse, the Patriots scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive to go up 7-0 and never looked back.

-Kevin Johnson is bad at football. Honey Badger is good at football. So when Honey Badger appeared to communicate something to Johnson and he didn’t adjust, he went full Honey Badger on him on the bench by yelling at him and making demonstrative hand gestures as if he was exasperated. Not only that, but Johnson did what he does best: got called for dumb penalties, missed easy tackles going for kill shots, and got another concussion.

-The Texans had no answer for Gronk. He routinely beat any linebacker he was matched up against, as well as the double coverage said linebackers got from the secondary. The worst of it was his touchdown catch over Kareem Jackson as he tried to double him over the top while Zach Cunningham played man coverage underneath. Cunningham was drafted because he could cover. He hasn’t shown that as of yet.

There are plenty of things to look at with hope moving forward. However, there are more causes for concern. This team has high ceiling, low floor potential for this season. I could see anywhere from an 11-5 playoff run, to a disappointing 6-10 missing the playoffs and wondering why Bill O’Brien got an extension offseason.

 

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One more win and they're in. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As they were at the start of the 60 game season, the Astros are a virtual lock to make the expanded postseason field. Unexpectedly, the only reason the Astros have a shot in October is because the field is expanded. Still, all they need is one win in three shots at the Rangers or one Angels loss as they play three at the Dodgers and the Astros are in and an absolute threat to win another American League pennant. This Astros squad is an average squad. The losses of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Yordan Alvarez combined with all their key hitters dropping off from 2019 make Astros' mediocrity a simple fact of life. A mediocre but potent team can beat any better team in a best of three, best of five, or best of seven series. Heck, a bad team can beat a great team two out of three. The format is such that the Astros will be the sixth seed among the eight AL playoff teams, so they will be the road team in each game of a best of three series at the number three seed. They could be headed to Oakland, Minnesota, or Chicago.

A couple of peripheral bummers of the Astros to this point disappointing 2020…

One, Justin Verlander's dream of 300 career wins pretty much died with the ulna collateral ligament in his right arm. Verlander's one win this year combined with zero next year will have him at 226 career wins when he turns 39 in February of 2022. That Verlander can then average 15 wins per season through age 43 isn't utterly impossible but is extremely unlikely. While cementing his Hall of Fame credentials, Verlander didn't average 15 wins per season from 2015 through '19.

Two, Jose Altuve's collision course with the 3000 hit club has hit a major detour. I'm not declaring Altuve washed up, though only apologists and homers would describe his short season performance as better than feeble. He's been among the worst regulars in all of Major League Baseball this season. Altuve's best baseball is behind him. If he can get back to 2018 or 2019 Altuve that's plenty good, though not close to 2016 and 2017 Altuve. Well, Altuve failed to reach 170 hits in either 2018 or '19. Giving him 170 hits per season for each of the next eight seasons (bet the under), Altuve would be within about 30 hits of 3000 when approaching his 39th birthday at the start of the 2029 season. Craig Biggio remained a lineup regular at age 40 only so he could get to 3000.

Texans face another tough test against Steelers

It's no shocking upset if they win but the Texans probably come home from Pittsburgh Sunday night with an 0-3 record. As only four point underdogs they should have a much better shot than they did against the Chiefs and Ravens. Not that that is saying much. The Texans were pretty pitifully overmatched by the Chiefs and Ravens, the faint silver lining is that they're the two best teams in the AFC. It's possible the Steelers are the third best team (I'll take the Bills but it's possible). So even at 0-3 the Texans' season wouldn't be dead. Just two years ago they opened 0-3 before ripping off nine straight wins and finishing 11-5. But just as the 2018 Texans wound up, this season's team would be a total pretender.

All five starters back on the offensive line was supposed to be a boon to the Texans' offense. The pass protection has been porous and now has to deal with a top tier pass rushing Steeler defense. Deshaun Watson has been his usual terrifically elusive self, but merely okay throwing the ball. Offensively, 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger has looked all right at quarterback after missing all but the opener last season with a blown out throwing elbow. Big Ben is not close to the mobility threat Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are, but the Texan D which has thus far been sieve-like against running backs will see two backs each over five yards per carry thus far in James Conner and Benny Snell.

At least the Texans will have no crowd noise to deal with at Heinz Field. The Steelers are 2-0 but have only beaten the awful Giants and the injury-battered Broncos.


Buzzer Beaters:

1. One game is one game but Bregman, Altuve, and Springer all homering Thursday night had to create some warm feelings for any Astros fan.

2. The Lakers-Nuggets series has been outstanding. Number of Rockets you think are watching any of it: over/under 2 1/2.

3. Greatest Bennys: Bronze-the one with the Jets Silver-Jack Gold-Goodman

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