3 headlines, 2 questions, and 1 bet on the heels of a Texans win over the Falcons

Watson as good as ever as line does best job of season

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Watson's huge day

Deshaun Watson was shredding record books when he started his career with the Texans. Last year, there were less records to fall but he's back to his old ways now.

Watson was incredible on Sunday and head coach Bill O'Brien put a lot of the credit on Watson and what he sees.

He mentioned Watson deserves the accolades for seeing the openings in the defense and making the right decision. On Monday he reiterated that Watson makes the plays based off the information he sees pre-snap as well as what he sees as the play is happening.

O'Brien also joked they practice the dribble fumble play all the time.

Jokes aside, Watson is clearly a high-level decision maker now. Even when the offensive line is shaky, which it wasn't Sunday, he isn't making a lot of wild plays like in his first year and early in his second year. He has just one interception this season

The Falcons did Watson a favor thinking they could get pressure with just four, but even when blitzed Watson made the right plays more often than not. Pro Football Focus credits him with one incomplete pass in eight attempts which led to 75 yards passing and one touchdown.

Keeping it clean

No sacks. No quarterback hits. Just a handful of pressures. The Texans offensive line had their best performance of the season.

It also saw the return of what is the hopeful starting offensive line for the rest of the season. Zach Fulton was back at right guard and the improvement over Greg Mancz was noticeable.

We said last week in this space they were close to turning a corner and now with hopefully health and consistency they can continue to put together complete games. Not only did they keep Watson clean but they were able to get more than a few successful runs out of Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde. Deshaun Watson's rushing isn't usually the offensive line so we don't count that in the success.

"They did a good job," O'Brien said. "They had a good week. They worked hard. They put in extra time and everybody did. I mean, again the sacks are, everybody's involved."

Class is in session

SportsMap's own Jake Asman asked Deshaun Watson for a repeat performance of what he saw from his opponent's defense and sure enough, Watson delivered.

I very much hope this continues. I also hope NFL quarterbacks will replicate what Watson is doing. Defenders too. The average football fan is smarter than ever and hardcore fans love picking up an extra nugget or two about scheme.

Can the special teams get fixed?

After what was a fairly solid year on special team last year, the Texans have been unspectacular on special teams this year.

Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn has missed three extra points and has missed two field goals this season. One of those was a 56-yard attempt as time expired in the first half in Los Angeles. Not going to crush him too hard for that, 56-yard field goals aren't easy. The other was just over 50 yards, at home, and likely should have been a make.

Again, I'm not super worried about the kicking yet, but there is definitely something to the misses of the extra points that needs to get shored up. The Texans play close games. They can't afford to give away a point here or there.

"He's got to make the kicks," O'Brien said.

DeAndre Carter became a topic of the special teams as well. He had a muffed punt with the team up two scores late that let Atlanta get in position to make it a one score game. Later in the game he caught a kickoff near the sideline. The officials ruled he was out of bounds when he made contact with the ball, which is a penalty on the kicking team, but replays showed otherwise. The Texans should have had the ball where Carter caught it as he came down in bounds and went out of bounds.

"I'm not concerned about DeAndre Carter at all," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said he believed Carter would see what he made mistakes on in film and correct them. Carter is almost a yard better on punt returns than his season with the Texans last year.

The Texans also had three special teams penalties yesterday. Two on punts that cost them 18 total yards and one on Fairbairn's final extra point that was declined because he missed it.

Can the Texans replicate the Colts gameplan?

The Colts smashed the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. They were physical and slowed the high-flying Chiefs defense to one of their worst performances in Patrick Mahomes time as the starter.

What jumped off the screen is the play of the Colts offensive line pushing around a Chiefs defense, albeit a banged up Chiefs defense, for the better part of four quarters. They controlled the clock, shortened the game, and matched their physical offensive play on defense as well.

Let's not get too excited with the Colts figuring out the Chiefs. Tyreek Hill still isn't back and Sammy Watkins was hobbled. Plus there were multiples injuries to the offensive line and even Mahomes' ankle.

I bet Sunday is a shootout

I would expect the Chiefs will give Tyreek Hill a go even if he isn't 100 percent. The injury report will be important this week for both teams as the Chiefs had a multitude of people banged up on both lines as well as the mentioned wideout issues.

Kenny Stills on the back of Will Fuller's big day would be quite the crew to prepare for this weekend for Kansas City. I don't anticipate either defense slowing down the other consistently so turnovers and big plays should decide Sunday.

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The answers in the outfield are becoming clearer than the Astros hoped

*Note: Some Advanced Statistics, courtesy of Baseball Savant, do not include Thursday night's game against the Diamondbacks. Others, courtesy of Fangraphs, do include Thursday night's game*

The Corpus Christi Hooks Twitter account confirmed that Yordan Alvarez is alive and able to take swings, meaning the slugger's return to the Astros lineup is getting closer. Alvarez will get a bulk of the DH at-bats. With Springer being the primary center fielder, and Brantley being the primary left fielder, Dusty Baker will have to choose between Josh Reddick and Kyle Tucker for his primary right fielder. Who should he choose?

How do you boil down picking between two players to one question? What is the most important thing to judge a hitter on? The answer

The better player is the player that does the most damage consistently.

Sounds easy, right? But how do you judge that?

  1. Hard Hit %
  2. BB:K
  3. Contact %

Why these three? Well, hitting the ball hard usually leads to damage, so it is good to hit the ball hard. A player that walks and strikes out roughly the same amount is generally pretty consistent, so BB:K ratios closer to 1:1 (this is extremely rare, and a vast majority of MLB hitters are worse than 1:2) are good. Lastly, players that make contact a lot not only can generally do more of the little things like moving runners over, lifting a ball with a runner on third, or executing a hit & run, but also they generally don't swing and miss at their pitch when they get it. Action happens.

Kyle Tucker has a hard hit % of 38.5% so far in 2020. That is 55th in MLB amongst players with at least 25 batted balls (Tucker has 26). For context, Padres star third baseman Manny Machado is ranked 54th with 38.9%, thorn-in-the-Astros-side Kole Calhoun is t-58th at 37.9%, and Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis leads the big leagues at 66.7% (wow).

So, more than 1/3rd of the time Tucker makes contact, he hits it hard. That's pretty good...But how often does he make contact?

Tucker has a contact % of 75.6%, meaning he makes contact with the baseball three out of every four times he swings the bat. That is 88th amongst qualified hitters. He is 1% worse than the slumping Jose Altuve, tied with that guy Kole Calhoun again, and about 1% better than the also-slumping George Springer. Tucker is far from elite at putting the bat on the ball, but he isn't terrible either.

However, despite hitting baseball's hard one-third of the time and making contact three-thirds of the time, Tucker strikes out entirely too much. His 29.3% K-rate is the 35th worst in baseball, and he doesn't offset the strikeouts with a lot of walks either. Tucker walks just 7.3% of the time, which is the 62nd lowest. Ultimately, Tucker has a BB:K ratio of 0.25, which is 49th in MLB right now.

Lastly, while it isn't part of the criteria above, Tucker doesn't have a very diverse batted ball portfolio. Tucker hits the ball to the pull side 65% of the time, and he's hit it on the ground 50% of the time. Eventually, teams will start placing heavy shifts on him, and those balls that have snuck through holes in the early parts of the year won't anymore.

But, is Josh Reddick any better? While none of Tucker's numbers blow you away, they aren't terrible, and he's a young prospect that needs playing time to develop.

Reddick has a 31.3% hard hit % so far in 2020, about seven percentage points below Tucker. 31.3% places Reddick in 96th place, between players like Marcus Semien and Yuli Gurriel. So, Tucker has Reddick beat here, but it isn't by a landslide.

Reddick has a contact % of 80.5%, which is 50th in MLB right now. He's better than Tucker by 5%, and he's in the top quartile in baseball. Reddick also sprays the ball around when he makes contact, hitting the ball to center field 43.8% of the time, right field 37.5% of the time, and left field 18.8% of the time. His ground ball rate is also 31%, almost 20% lower than Tucker's. That would explain why Reddick and Tucker's Barrel % (hard hit baseballs hit in the most desired exit velocity) are within a percentage point of one another despite Tucker having a seven point hard hit advantage.

Lastly, Reddick doesn't strike out very much. He strikes out 14% of the time, which is the 34th best K% in baseball (funny enough, Gurriel and Brantley are 33rd and 32nd). While Reddick doesn't walk a ton either, he walks more than Tucker, clocking in four percentage points better at 11.6%. That results in a BB:K ratio of 0.83, which is tied with Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman for the 30th best in MLB.

Throw in the fact that Reddick plays significantly better defense, and it's really a no-brainer who should play. Astros fans might want the sexier and newer model in Tucker, but it isn't time to trade in old reliable just yet. When Yordan Alvarez returns, Josh Reddick is the right answer in right field.

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