It was hat and t-shirt week in the NFL

The good, bad and ugly from NFL Week 16

David Silverman, Patriots team website

Week 16 of the NFL season was hat and t-shirt week as several teams clinched division titles and playoff spots. Here a few things I observed:

The Good

-The Patriots captured their 10th consecutive AFC East division title with their 24-12 win over the Bills. The only other pro sports team to have a run like this was the Atlanta Braves in MLB. Whether you love, hate or are indifferent about them, you have to respect what they've done. Like the old saying goes "If you ain't cheatin, you ain't tryin!" Or is it: "It's only cheatin if you get caught!"

-The Cowboys wrapped up their third NFC East title in the last five years following a 27-20 win over the Bucs. Although they haven't made it past the divisional round since 1995 (the last time they won a Super Bowl), this team seems poised to possibly make that a thing of the past.

-The Browns beat the hapless Bengals 26-18 behind another big performance by rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. He went 27 of 37 for 284 yards and three touchdowns. Even receiver Jarvis Landry threw a 63-yard bomb to Breshad Perriman. The Browns are an exciting young team. Let's hope they find the right coach to steer this ship.

The Bad

-Apparently there was a "situation" between Bills coach Sean McDermott and his star running back LeSean McCoy this week that led to McDermott benching McCoy. McCoy admitted as much but didn't elaborate. One must speculate as to whether there will be a parting of the ways this offseason, or this was a one off.

-Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota went down with a stinger in their 25-16 win over the Skins. The thing that makes this fall under "The Bad" you ask? We may be subjected to a Blaine Gabbert versus Andrew Luck "Loser Leaves Town Match" when the Titans play the Colts next week for a playoff spot.

-I wrote this article before Monday Night Football because nobody gives a damn about a Broncos (6-8) versus Raiders (3-11) game. Well, their family members might care. The NFL needs to do something about the MNF schedule. I know people buy tickets and plan around these games, but I have an idea about how to fix it. Be looking for that article soon.

The Ugly

-As ballsy as the Chargers played last week to beat the Chiefs, was as bad as the Ravens made them look. They were held to just 10 points, less than 200 yards total offense, and Phillip Rivers went 23 of 37 for 181 yards with two picks and was sacked four times. In other words, they pissed away their chance at the top seed in AFC.

-The Jags beat the Dolphins 17-7. It was so ugly, the teams combined for 427 total yards of offense, 4.06 yards per play average, and 20 penalties for 192 yards. This was the type of game in which the family members left early.

-Skins decided to cut safety D.J. Swearinger following disparaging remarks he made about defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Swearinger was named a Pro Bowl alternate this year and had one year remaining on his contract. I guess saving $4.5 million dollars on next year's cap and a headache in the locker room was more important.

We will have to wait and see how the folks at 345 Park Avenue in New York decide how the schedule will play out for week 17. The league tries to make sure the last couple weeks of the season mean as much as possible to keep people interested. Playoff spots and seeding will be on the line and I'm looking forward to it.

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The Astros play Game 1 of the ALDS Tuesday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

With a nod to Charles Dickens, October is the best of times (Astros) and the worst of times (Texans and Rockets) for Houston sports fans. At least this October.

October is the one month when all three of Houston’s major sports teams are guaranteed to be in full swing at the same time. It’s possible, if the Astros make the World Series that November will have all three teams in action, too. But let’s not jinx things.

The Astros start their playoff run Tuesday on TBS. Since the Yankees also play that day, also on TBS, we can assume the Astros will get the daytime slot, the Yankees in prime time. Now before Astros fans start screaming east coast bias, it really only applies to TV. Fun fact: no New York Met has ever won an MVP Award, and only one Yankee has won it in the past 37 years – Alex Rodriguez in 2005 and 2007. How’d that work out for him? Most important, a New York team has won the World Series only once in the past two decades – the Yankees in 2009.

The Astros could play as many as 15 more games in October, five in the Division Series, seven in the League Championship Series and three in the World Series before the calendar flips to November.

Meanwhile, the Texans plod on with three more games in October, and the Rockets have 11.

The winless Texans are at home against the Titans at NRG Stadium, on the road against the Jaguars and Raiders.

The Rockets, coming off the worst record in the NBA last season, have three games at home at Toyota Center and eight on the road.

This presents a problem of abundance, an embarrassment of riches, for Houston sports junkies. Who are you going to watch on TV? Which team will you pay to watch in person? Who are you rooting for the most? Whose jersey will you buy?

David Puddy is right, you “gotta support the team,” but who will own Houston this month?

What to do? If it’s true that nothing succeeds like success, and everybody loves a winner – it’s an obvious choice.

The Astros.

The Astros just completed their regular season with 106 wins, second most in franchise history, another American League West title, the best record in the American League and will have home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Even though fans had high hopes for the Astros entering 2022, the team smashed everybody’s expectations. Vegas put the Astros over/under wins at 92 games. The Astros seemingly flew by that number during spring training.

They are the first team in American League history to win 100 games in four of their last five full seasons. Not even Babe Ruth’s Yankees of the 1920s and 1930s did that. This core of Astros has won five of the last six American League West titles. They’ve played in three of the last five World Series. This is a dynasty right before our eyes. We’re witness to greatness. How ‘bout them Astros?

What a season it was. Who could have figured that 39-year-old Justin Verlander, out of action for two seasons after Tommy John surgery, would have a career year, a ridiculously skinny earned run average and the overwhelming pick for the Cy Young Award? Jose Altuve would return to a .300 batting average, Cristian Javier would lead the team in strikeouts, Yordan Alvarez would finish No. 2 between Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in OPS, and rookie Jeremy Pena would slug 22 home runs, the same number as Carlos Correa? Remember last offseason and cries of “pay the man!” Some of a team’s best deals are the ones they don’t make.

Strap yourself in for an October to remember. The storylines are endless. There’s bad blood between the Astros and the Yankees, between the Astros and Dodgers, between the Astros and boo birds in every stadium not named Minute Maid Park.

It’s going to be fun.

As for the Texans, Deshaun Watson returns to action Nov. 4 against the Texans here at NRG Stadium. And we’ll catch up with the Rockets when the NBA season starts for real on Christmas Day. But until then … play ball!

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