THE PLAYOFF PICTURE

What has to happen for the Texans to get a top 2 seed in the AFC

Deshaun Watson and the Texans need to win out and hope for help. Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Four games remain this season and the Texans are on a nine game winning streak. They currently hold the third spot in the AFC and can lock up the division with a win at home against the Colts on Sunday and a Titans loss to the Jaguars. While those are both plausible scenarios nothing is guaranteed. Even if it doesn’t happen this weekend, it’s highly likely that they win the division in the end. But if they really want make this the most improbable season, they can earn the top overall seed by winning all four remaining games. Which is also a plausible scenario.

Houston’s remaining games are the Colts, at the Jets, at the Eagles, and at home in Week 17 against the Jaguars. The Colts just got blanked against the Jacksonville and you better believe Bill O’Brien is watching that film closely to see how he can limit Andrew Luck and his potent passing attack. The Jets are still the Jets, but the Eagles might be the biggest challenge. The Super Bowl Champions are not what they were last year, but they still have a chance to sneak into the playoffs and a home game against the Texans is a game they will get up for. The Jaguars defense may have awoken this past weekend but offensively they don’t have much; they managed only six points in their shutout of the Colts.

The Texans defense has been making big, timely plays and will have to continue that trend. They will also need to keep the running game going. Controlling the clock and wearing down opposing defenses is a sure fire way to win out. All of their remaining opponents are at .500 or below, giving the Texans plenty of film to showcase weaknesses. So far, Bill O’Brien has game planned and coached well enough to exploit their last nine opponents. Four more would surely earn him coach of the year.

They still need some help to get to the top. The Patriots currently sit in the second spot with a matching record and already hold a head to head victory over Houston. They will need to lose a game for the Texans to leap-frog them. Their schedule is a little light with games against all three of their divisional opponents remaining. If you know anything about the AFC East, the Patriots have dominated all of them in the Brady/Belichick era.

The best chance Houston has is New England’s Week 15 road game in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are barely holding on to the lead in the AFC North and will need every win they can get to hold off Baltimore. A Patriots loss would help Houston’s case for at least a playoff bye week.

They also need the top seeded Chiefs to lose a divisional game or earn two losses in the final four games. They have the toughest remaining schedule between these three teams. They are at home against the Ravens this week and the Chargers the next. Baltimore is on a three game winning streak and has a solid defense so a win is no guarantee. The Chargers are only one game behind them in the AFC West and a win would make sure they have a shot to win the division at the end of the season. They finish their tough three-game stretch on the road against the Seahawks, who are fighting for the last Wild Card spot. Seattle is one of the toughest places to win on the road and Russell Wilson is showing why he’s a high caliber quarterback. They finish the season at home against a Raiders team whose only motivation might be to lose and secure the first overall pick in the draft. I’ll mark that a win for Kansas City.

The Chiefs were able to win their first game without running back Kareem Hunt, but that was against the aforementioned Raiders. It will be different when they roll into the next three games with only back-ups leading the ground game. Houston’s best chance comes once again in Week 15 when the Chargers come to Arrowhead. If Phillip Rivers can lead his team to victory the top seed will be visible from NRG Stadium.

The Texans can secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs by winning their last four games and getting help from the Patriots and Chiefs. One loss is needed by the Patriots and the Chiefs need to lose a divisional game or two games overall. Week 15 will be crucial, as the Chargers visit the Chiefs Thursday night and the Patriots go to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon. The Texans play on Saturday that week so fans in Houston can watch each game closely and will the Chargers, Texans, and Steelers to victory.


 

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Houston loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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