Texans 27, Raiders 24

Texans vs Raiders: Good, bad and ugly

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The Texans improved to 5-3 by outlasting the Raiders in yet another come from behind win. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Deshaun Watson was did everything he had to do to help his team win. He went 27/39 for 279 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for another 46 yards on 10 carries. His third touchdown pass was highlight reel material as he threw it with one eye open after escaping a sack and being kicked in the face!

-DeAndre Hopkins was Watson's favorite target. what a surprise. Hopkins didn't have any of the three touchdown passes Watson threw, but he routinely caught the tough passes to keep the chains moving. His 11 catches on 13 targets for 109 yards speaks to the level of comfort these two guys have with one another.

-Whitney Mercilus continues to play like he's pre-injury Whitney. Six tackles and two tackles for loss, including one big hit on Josh Jacobs. He was able to pressure Derek Carr a few times, but didn't manage a sack. I can see him pushing for a Pro Bowl nod if he maintains this level of play.

The Bad

-First Raiders play from scrimmage, I saw Benardrick McKinney get caught in the trash trying to slide down the line and Josh Jacobs ran for a 13 yard gain. He also shot a gap and missed Jacobs on another first quarter run. This isn't what one would expect from a guy who was given a $55 million dollar extension.

-The offensive line woes continued against the Raiders. The run game was non-existent outside Watson until the fourth quarter when Carlos Hyde picked it up. They also gave up three sacks and had several more pre-snap penalties. Oh, and Laremy Tunsil went down with a shoulder injury and didn't return.

-Woes you say? Let's talk about the woes in the defensive backfield. They gave up 285 yards passing against a team that has been run heavy because they suck so bad. Injuries bit them again this game as well. They're basically playing with whoever they can find that can also stay healthy.

The Ugly

-The Texans are one of three teams in the league to not produce any points on their opening drive this season. They join the Jets and Saints in this category. Failing to establish your offense early is a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, it didn't come back to haunt them against the Raiders. However it is something they need to rectify if they expect to make a run.

-Watson's eye was swollen after being kicked. Eye injuries are nothing to play with because they can't be rehabbed or repaired. Once you damage them, that's it. Over the next few days, pay attention to his eye and what they say about it. Looks as if he'll be OK, but man that was scary.

-J.J. Watt (shoulder) and Lonnie Johnson Jr (concussion) both went out in the first half with injuries and didn't return. This thinned an already thin secondary and hurt the pass rush. Johnson Jr will be in concussion protocol and will might miss next week's game or more depending on severity. Watt jogged off the field and didn't appear too seriously hurt, but it turned out he had a torn pec and is lost for the season again.

While this win wasn't without its losses (the injuries), it was pleasing. Watson managed to get his backs and tight ends involved in the red zone. Hopkins continues to make the chains move in routine fashion. Hyde has proven to be a steal, as well as Duke Johnson. Garreon Conley left a lot to be desired, but it was his first game in a Texans uniform. If this team can get and stay healthy, they'll be an AFC contender. However, if health and mental mistakes continue to plague them, off to an early vacation they'll go. Props to Bill O'Brien for adjusting and calling a good game. Let's hope he keeps this up. Up next are the Jags in a game being played across the Pond. Better wake up early next weekend.

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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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