AFC SOUTH CHAMPIONS

Texans wrap up successful regular season with another grind-it-out win over Jags

Deshaun Watson (left) and Nick Martin lifted the Texans to victory. Bob Levey/Getty Images

It might not be the final result they were hoping for, but the Texans put a wrap on a successful regular season on Sunday.

The Texans took care of business in their finale, dispatching a hapless Jacksonville Jaguars team 20-3 in typical grind-it-out fashion. The Texans defense locked down a bad offense and the game was never really in doubt.

The end result is the Texans finish with an 11-5 record, the best of the Bill O'Brien era. They win the AFC South for the third time in the last four years and will host a first-round playoff game next week against a familiar foe - Tennessee or Indianapolis.

They were unable to clinch a first round bye, but considering they started the season 0-3, the season has to be considered a good one, and now attention turns to the playoffs.

So what is the ceiling? Their first-round matchup will be tough, but that's the playoffs. A win there and they will head to a familiar place - New England - where the season has ended for them several times in the past.

But it is not ridiculous to think at some point they could pull off a victory in Foxboro. Deshaun Watson is clearly healthy and when teaming with DeAndre Hopkins gives them a fighting chance against anyone. Watson almost willed the Texans to victory in Philadelphia last week, and turned in a workmanlike effort in the win over Jacksonville. He completed 25 of 35 for 234 yards and added another 66 yards rushing with a touchdown. Hopkins was once again spectacular, with 12 catches for 147 yards going up against one of the best corners in the NFL, Jaylen Ramsey. Watson once again did not turn the ball over.

The negatives? Watson again took too many sacks. The Jaguars got to him six times and pressured him on several others. Many times, Watson's sacks are on him, but the bulk Sunday came from shaky offensive line play.

The halftime commentators made a good point; those negative plays will hurt against teams that can score. And that is what awaits the Texans in the playoffs.

The old concerns will be there, too. The offensive line just is not good enough to hold up against a quality defensive front. The Texans will have to overcome that to make a deep playoff run.

While the Texans corners played well on Sunday without Jonathan Joseph, better teams with better receivers and quarterbacks will likely feast on them.

The Texans were better than the past two weeks, but still were not great in the running game other than Watson, as Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue combined for 68 yards on 20 carries. When they run the ball effectively, they can compete with anyone. But the running backs have not been good for almost a month.

However, those are issues for next week and potentially beyond. On Sunday, the Texans wrapped up a nice season and won an AFC South that is no longer a joke.

The AFC itself is now there for the taking. Are the Texans good enough? Probably not, but they are in with a chance.

After that 0-3 start to the season, that is quite the accomplishment.

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McCullers Jr. had nine strikeouts over four

McCullers Jr. looks sharp in tune-up before Rangers overpower Houston's bullpen

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite watching their chance to clinch their playoff spot on the field slip away in the walk-off loss on Friday, the Astros benefited from a loss by the Angels later in the night, securing their playoff berth. That meant they could play conservatively in the final two games of the season against the Rangers in Arlington. Here's a quick rundown of Saturday's matchup:

Final Score: Rangers 6, Astros 1.

Record: 29-30, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Jimmy Herget (1-0, 3.20 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Brandon Bielak (3-3, 6.75 ERA).

McCullers Jr. looks playoff-ready 

With nothing substantial to play for, the Astros did not expect to ask Lance McCullers Jr. to go deep into Saturday's game, instead giving him a few innings for a tune-up before assuming whatever role he would play in the post-season. He looked impressive, a promising sign after his injury stint and struggles on the road at points this season.

He finished four innings, during which he racked up a season-high nine strikeouts while giving up no runs on just two hits, both singles, and two walks. His final line: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 0 HR, 61 P.

Both teams trade runs as  they go to their bullpens

Meanwhile, neither team was getting much going at the plate in the early goings, keeping it a scoreless game through the first five. Brandon Bielak took over for McCullers Jr. starting in the fifth but would allow the first run of the night in the bottom of the sixth as the Rangers would get three singles to take a 1-0 lead.

After Kyle Gibson held the Astros at bay for six innings, Houston would get on the board against Texas' bullpen, getting a leadoff double by Aledmyz Diaz in the top of the seventh. Diaz moved to third on a sac bunt, then scored on a sac fly by Jack Mayfield, making it 1-1.

Rangers blow it open in the seventh

The tie didn't last long, as Bielak would put two on base in the bottom of the seventh before giving up a three-run homer to make it a 4-1 Rangers lead. Andre Scrubb was next out of Houston's bullpen and allowed a solo home run on his first pitch. Scrubb would complete the inning, but not before allowing another run on three singles to push Texas' lead to 6-1.

Cy Sneed was next out of Houston's bullpen for the bottom of the eighth and tossed a scoreless frame with two strikeouts. Houston would not make the unlikely comeback in the top of the ninth, with the Rangers taking the game 6-1.

Up Next: The last game of the Astros' 2020 regular season will be Sunday at 2:05 PM Central, as are most other games on the MLB slate on the league's final regular-season day. Houston's starter is TBD as they will continue to preserve their arms for the best-of-three first round that starts on Tuesday, while Texas will send Jordan Lyles (1-6, 7.08 ERA) to the mound.

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