Watson has his best play yet and Hopkins might be the best he's ever been

Trades unlikely to help fill Watt-sized void

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

3 headlines, 2 questions, and 1 bet ahead of the trip across the pond to London to play the Jaguars.

Watson wows as usual

We can focus on the game-winning score all we like, but, Watson was very impressive in the second half as whole.

Early on I thought there were some typical elements of sharpness that were lacking and it could be a long day for the Texans if Watson wasn't sharp but he got it going soon after.

He would go on to complete all but four passes in the second half and rush for 34 of his 46 rushing yards after halftime as well. The Texans would score on all three of their second half possessions with one possession taking almost half a quarter controlling the clock.

It feels like each week Watson shows a trick in his bag and overcomes every level of adversity headed his way. He is officially "you're in every game" territory with Watson. Houston has a chance in every game with Watson playing the way he does.

"Slim to none" chance trades are made

Head coach Bill O'Brien didn't seem to think the Texans were going to make any moves. He did use the word "today" on Monday. It is worth noting the trade deadline isn't until Tuesday at 3pm. Maybe I am dicing words but it doesn't seem likely the Texans have the assets, or desire, to make a trade. O'Brien mentioned there needed to be balance in working on this year's team and the future.

The only player that I could see being on the block and maybe getting moved would be Keke Coutee. He was active and healthy but didn't play in Sunday's win over the Raiders. The team does have an injury at wideout with Will Fuller, but Coutee can't play outside anyway. They also promoted Steven Mitchell Jr. from the practice squad last week.

It's unlikely they make a deal, and even if they do, I can't see it being a big one. Their big deals have already been done.

The best ball of his career

Only Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss were faster to the above number. Hopkins did it with quite the quarterback crew. He's caught touchdown passes from the following passers:

Matt Schaub

Case Keenum

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Brian Hoyer

Ryan Mallett

T.J. Yates

Brandon Weeden

Brock Osweiler

Tom Savage

Deshaun Watson

I asked Hopkins if despite the stats, if he is playing the best football of his career.

"Yeah, some would say different," He said. "They might, like, I'm getting old, year seven, and what not. But honestly, I feel like I am. I feel like being on the same page with Deshaun, I feel like we have been clicking."

Hopkins was pleased to be in the same conversation as the above greats and wanted to give credit to his teammates as well.

"I got to thank the quarterbacks that's helped me get 8,000 yards, because I can't throw the ball to myself, even the Brock Osweilers, the Brandon Weedens, I got to thank those guys, honestly. Y'all might laugh, but I can't throw the ball to myself."

Deshaun Watson heaped praise on his teammate as well.

"He's an unselfish person," said Watson. "He's a guy that just wants to win. He don't care what the stat line says, he doesn't care how many touchdowns he has, as long as we get that W on Sundays and we're aiming for what we want to go to, the ultimate goal, that's what it's all about."

How do you fill in for Watt?

O'Brien made it clear you don't just fill in for a hall of fame caliber player like J.J. Watt. And he's right. The Texans will likely have to make use of what they currently have on the roster and potentially a small addition.

It is my assumption Carlos Watkins will "start" in Watt's spot with rookie defensive end Charles Omenihu playing a good portion of the snaps that Watt vacated. Brandon Dunn could also be used to move pieces around along the defensive line situation. D.J. Reader will need to be as good or even better than he currently is for Houston. Angelo Blackson has been a nice player this season.

The linebackers are where things get interesting. Whitney Mercilus is the lone true pass rushing threat on this team. His job just got insanely hard. Jacob Martin will need to continue to show promise. He had the team's lone QB hit yesterday. I don't see any scenario where Barkevious Mingo gets snaps that matter on defense but I could be surprised.

There isn't a free agent option that would make a lot of sense. Maybe someone from another practice squad. I also don't believe a trade would acquire anyone of significance. There aren't many options on the Texans own practice squad. Albert Huggins was signed off the practice squad by Philadelphia last week or he would have had a shot at the spot. Javi Edwards is more of a nose tackle exclusively so it seems unlikely he is the player to get that spot.

What's Watt's future?

This is far less significant than the other injuries he has dealt with in his career. In fact, when it comes to season-ending, it isn't even close compared to the back and the leg break. That being said, four of his last five seasons have been severely affected via injury.

The positive for Watt is he played at an elite level when he played coming back from the injury and again, those were far more serious than what he is dealing with now.

There was conversation in 2017, obviously I'm unaware how real it truly was, that Whitney Mercilus could have come back after his injury and played that season. The season was off the rails by the time he was healthy. So, this is far from a terrible injury for Watt. He shouldn't even miss offseason activities.

His contract becomes interesting though. He has no guaranteed money and two years left on his deal after this season. He carries a cap hit of $15.5 million and $17.5 million those two years. An extension is absolutely in the conversation when you think about what Laremy Tunsil's new deal and Deshaun Watson's new deal may cost the team. Not to mention, Whitney Mercilus is a free agent and DeAndre Hopkins already has his big contract and makes close to $15 million each of the next three years.

It is fun to hope Watt is a member of the Texans for life, and with the team likely staying in the conversation of success with their quarterback, he doesn't seem poised to "ring chase" elsewhere. He will also be just 31 years old and plenty of elite pass rushers have had loads of success in their 30's. All-time greats like Bruce Smith and Reggie White had amazing stats in their 30's and even Terell Suggs and Cameron Wake were recent examples of players who were fantastic in their 30's.

Watt, for the moment, is a far off thought. The 2019 season still has eight games to be played.

I bet the Texans aren't anywhere close to full strength against the Jaguars

It could be another game where backups have to play key roles for the Texans. Lonnie Johnson's concussion seemed bad on the field I would expect he is missing this weekend. Tashaun Gipson didn't get the most positive endorsement of health for this week from Bill O'Brien. Roderick Johnson was banged up which led to the Chris Clark start. Tytus Howard has no shot to play this week. It is imperative Bradley Roby or Johnathan Joseph, or hopefully both, can play against a decent Jaguars team.

The injuries have piled up on the Texans and after London the bye week comes at the perfect time to get players healthy for the final 7 games.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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