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When will the Houston Texans host the season opener?

When will the Houston Texans host the season opener?
With Deshaun Watson leading the charge, the Texans could be real contenders in 2020. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Tonight is the official kick-off to the NFL season as the 2017 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles host the 2016 runner-up Atlanta Falcons. This prime-time game is the league’s way of rewarding the champion by giving them the night to celebrate with the stage to themselves. It got me thinking: when will the Texans have a legitimate shot at bringing opening night to Houston?

I sat down, looked over the current contracts, looked at the weaknesses, then decided the 2020 season is the first time the stars might align for the Texans.

Anytime a team makes the playoffs they have a shot, but this exercise is about a realistic outlook for the future and 2020 is when I think they can not only make the playoffs; but enter with a bye week as a serious threat to win it all.

I think they’ve entered a new era. For the first time in their history they have a quarterback who looks like a real franchise player. They had a good run during the Matt Schaub years, but Deshaun Watson is leaps and bounds ahead of him talent wise. In NFL circles, having a quarterback that can lead a top offense within the time frame of his rookie contract gives them a lot of flexibility.

Houston has their most important offensive players already under contract for the next two years and a lot of cap space to work with. The first thing they will have to fix is the offensive line. Everyone knows they don’t have it right now and it’s going to hold them back. Sure, Watson is still going to make it work but it’s easy to think they can be a top 5 offense with better protection up front.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that one of the new tight ends they drafted in 2018 develops. If DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and a legitimate pass catching tight end are on the field; look out, because Watson will put up MVP numbers.

I think in the next two years the running backs will get a necessary upgrade as well. While I think D’Onta Foreman can play, I’m not convinced he will develop into an every-down back. Sometime in the next two years an investment will have to be made. And not an aging veteran or a late round draft pick. It will have to be someone who can really compliment the offense and prevent any decline in overall performance. I think it happens and the offense gets some serious balance before the 2020 season.

Good news for the Texans, the defense has plenty of its top talent signed to the roster for at least two more years. J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, and Zach Cunningham will all be here to crowd the middle and get after the quarterback. Guys like D.J. Reader and Christian Covington shouldn’t be too expensive to keep around; keeping a solid core intact. The wild card will be Jadeveon Clowney. His is currently in the final year of his contract, but with all the cap room available I feel confident that things will get worked out. That leaves Brain Gaine with only the secondary to overhaul.

It would be nice if Tyrann Mathieu stuck around on a new deal, but I’ll bet that only Justin Reid remains on the roster in 2020. And if you only have one position group to fix, then you’re in good shape. Plenty of defensive backs have been found in the middle rounds or cheaply in free agency. That means that Houston could go into that season with the talent in place to have a championship level defense.

I see a Texans team with an arrow pointing straight up. They only have a few position groups to fix and a new GM to make it happen. Rick Smith may not have done well drafting in the middle rounds, but he loaded this team with stars in the first round. His final act was to draft the future in Deshaun Watson, which will make the next few years a wide-open window of opportunity. He left a few problems on his way out, and in my estimation, it will take two more years to get them fixed.

Every season is different and none of this may work out. Or maybe they catch lightning in a bottle sooner and win it all in 2018 or 2019. It’s going to be fun to watch and find out.


 

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Yordan Alvarez had four hits on Tuesday night. Composite Getty Image.

Salvador Perez hit a game-ending single in the 10th inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Houston Astros 4-3 on Tuesday night for their fifth consecutive victory.

Garrett Hampson began the Kansas City 10th on second as the automatic runner, replacing Vinnie Pasquantino. Hampson raced home when Perez led off the inning with a single to center against Wander Suero (0-1).

“We’re gonna play hard,” Perez said. “We’re gonna do our best, especially right now. We've got new comfort.”

James McArthur (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

Perez and Nelson Velázquez each had two hits for the Royals. Bobby Witt Jr. and Maikel Garcia each drove in a run.

Nick Anderson, Chris Stratton, John Schreiber and McArthur combined for five scoreless innings of four-hit ball in relief of Royals starter Cole Ragans.

“These guys are incredible,” Ragans said of the bullpen. “They pitched incredible. They kept us right there. That’s really, really big.”

Witt's biggest contribution may have been a diving stop on a two-out single by Jeremy Peña in the top of the 10th. Had the ball gotten past the young shortstop, the Astros likely would have taken the lead.

“I thought it did have a chance of going through,” Peña said. “I’ll shout out to Bobby Witt. (He) made a nice play.”

Yordan Alvarez had four hits and two RBIs for Houston, which had won two in a row. Peña had two hits and scored a run.

The Astros loaded the bases with three straight singles to start the first inning, but Ragans limited the damage to a run-scoring fielder’s choice for Yainer Diaz.

“I don’t think (Ragans) had his best stuff,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “That’s a good lineup, and they made him work. (But) if we turn that double play in the first or he’s able to get Alvarez out one of those times with two strikes, he’s coming out of there with one or maybe no runs. Credit to him really."

Alvarez singled in Peña with two out in the second, and then doubled home Mauricio Dubón in the fourth.

Ragans surrendered 10 hits in five innings for Kansas City. He struck out five and walked one.

Houston went 5 for 18 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base.

“We had some opportunities to get some guys in (with) less than two outs," Houston manager Joe Espada said. "We just couldn’t capitalize.”

Houston right-hander Cristian Javier was charged with three runs, two earned, and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked three.

Maikel Garcia’s sacrifice fly in the fifth stopped Javier’s scoreless streak at 15 innings to start the season. Witt drove in Hunter Renfroe with a two-out triple, and then scored on an error on third baseman Alex Bregman.

TRANSACTIONS

Astros: Placed LHP Framber Valdez on the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation. They selected the contract of Suero from Triple-A Sugar Land to take his place. The Astros also recalled LHP Parker Mushinski from Sugar Land and optioned RHP Blair Henley to the minors. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Astros transferred RHP Oliver Ortega to the 60-day IL.

Royals: Acquired RHP Colin Selby from Pittsburgh for minor league pitcher Connor Oliver. To make room on the 40-man roster for Selby, LHP Josh Taylor was moved to the 60-day IL. The Royals also signed RHP Zach Davies to a minor league deal.

UP NEXT

The Astros and Royals continue their three-game series Wednesday. RHP Spencer Arrighetti will make his major league debut for Houston against Seth Lugo (1-0, 0.71 ERA).

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