International club football returns to our TV sets in February with the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg matches kicking off on Tuesday. In Concacaf, their version of the Champions League kicks off with the marquee match of the opening stage pitting Liga MX's Club Leon vs. MLS' LAFC.
A recap of the week that was followed by the upcoming TV schedule:
English Premier League
Top six: 1. Liverpool (76), 2. Man City (51), 3. Leicester City (50), 4. Chelsea (41), 5. Tottenham (40), 6. Sheffield (39)
Bottom three (relegation): 18. West Ham (24), 19. Watford (24), 20. Norwich City (18)
Scoring leader: 17 - Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
Assists leader: 15 - Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)
Spanish La Liga
Top six: 1. Real Madrid (53), 2. FC Barcelona (52), 3. Getafe (42), 4. Atletico Madrid (40), 5. Sevilla (40), 6. Villarreal (38)
Bottom three: 18. Mallorca (21), 19. Leganes (19), 20. Espanyol (19)
Scoring leader: 14 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Assists leader: 12 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (46), 2. RB Leipzig (45), 3. Dortmund (42), 4. Monchengladbach (42), 5. Bayer Leverkusen (40), 6. Schalke 04 (36)
Bottom three: 16. Fortuna (17), 17. Werder Bremen (17), 18. Paderborn (16)
Scoring leader: 23 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Assists leader: 14 - Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)
Italian Serie A
Top six: 1. Juventus (57), 2. Lazio (56), 3. Inter Milan (54), 4. Atalanta (45), 5. Roma (39), 6. Hellas Verona (35)
Bottom three: 18. Genoa (22), 19. Brescia (16), 20. SPAL (15)
Scoring leader: 26 - Ciro Immobile (Lazio)Assists leader: 11 - Luis Alberto (Lazio)
French Ligue 1
Top four: 1. PSG (62), 2. Marseille (52), 3. Rennes (41), 4. Lille (40)
Bottom three: 18. Dijon (26), 19. Amiens (21), 20. Toulouse (13)
Scoring leader: 16 - Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco)
Assists leader: 12 - Angel Di Maria (PSG)
Rodolfo Pizarro, #InterMiamiCF's new Designated Player is here. 🗞️https://t.co/NwCxRQzyRC https://t.co/fAr1pdr3Pw— Inter Miami CF (@Inter Miami CF) 1581984000.0
The influx of Mexican stars to Major League Soccer continues. Rodolfo Pizarro is the latest name to cross the border as the former Chivas and Monterrey star will now feature for David Beckham's Inter Miami CF. The move, which has been its own transfer saga, finally became official on Monday.
Of local interest, the Houston Dynamo played New York Red Bulls to a 1-1 draw in Tucson, Arizona as part of their "spring training" before the season kicks off on February 29th at BBVA Stadium. The Dynamo have two friendlies this week to wrap up preseason.
Top eight: 1. Pumas (14), 2. Club America (13), 3. Leon (12), 4. Queretaro (12), 5. Juarez (11), 6. Cruz Azul (10), 7. Atletico San Luis (9), 8. Necaxa (8)
Scoring leader: 5 - Angel Mena (Leon) / Ariel Nahuelpan (Queretaro) / Jonathan Rodriguez (Cruz Azul)
TV listings (All Times CT):
For full info on soccer TV listings and streaming services in the United States, visit worldsoccertalk.com
Tuesday, February 18
2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Atletico Madrid vs. Liverpool (TNT, UniMas, TUDN)
2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Dortmund vs. PSG (Galavision, B/R Live)
9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Club Leon vs. LAFC (FS2)
9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Motagua vs. Atlanta United (FOX Soccer Plus)
Wednesday, February 19
1:30 p.m. - [Premier League] Man City vs. West Ham (NBC Sports)
2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Tottenham vs. RB Leipzig (TNT, UniMas, TUDN)
2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Atalanta vs. Valencia (Galavision, B/R Live)
5:00 p.m. - [MLS preseason] Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake (HoustonDynamo.com/Live)
7:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Saprissa vs. Montreal Impact (FS2)
Thursday, February 20
12:00 p.m. / 2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Round of 32 first leg matches (B/R Live)
7:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] San Carlos vs. New York City FC (FS2)
9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Olimpia vs. Seattle Sounders FC (FS2)
Friday, February 21
1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayern Munich vs. Paderborn (FOX Soccer Plus)
1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Brescia vs. Napoli (ESPN+)
7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Atlas vs. Pachuca (TUDN)
9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Club Tijuana vs. Chivas (FOX Deportes)
Saturday, February 22
6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Chelsea vs. Tottenham (NBC Sports)
8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Werder Bremen vs. Dortmund (FS1)
8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Hoffenheim (FS2, TUDN)
9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Sheffield United vs. Brighton (NBC Sports)
9:00 a.m. - [La Liga] FC Barcelona vs. Eibar (beIN Sports)
11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Leicester City vs. Man City (NBC)
11:00 a.m. - [Serie A] SPAL vs. Juventus (ESPN+)
11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Schalke 04 vs. RB Leipzig (FS2, TUDN)
2:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Levante vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)
5:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Club Leon vs. Necaxa (TUDN, ESPN Deportes)
6:00 p.m. - [MLS preseason] Houston Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew SC (HoustonDynamo.com/Live)
7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Cruz Azul vs. Tigres (Univision, TUDN, ESPN Deportes)
9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Monterrey vs. America (FOX Deportes)
Sunday, February 23
8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Man United vs. Watford (NBC Sports)
8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Wolves vs. Norwich (CNBC)
10:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. Everton (NBC Sports)
Monday, February 24
3:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Liverpool vs. West Ham (NBC Sports)
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.