THE PALLILOG

Where the Texans stand in the AFC pecking order after big win over the Patriots

Deshaun Watson
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

At 8-4 have the Texans stamped themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders? No they have not. Not yet. They're making progress, but not yet. Have you seen the Ravens? The Ravens who pulverized the Texans 41-7 in Baltimore 3 weeks ago? Still, beating a 10-1 Patriots team was stout. But the game was in Houston, under an obnoxiously and laughably closed roof. To be a Super Bowl team the Texans are going to have win in January, on the road, probably twice.

The Texans still have faint hopes for a first round playoff bye. They're two games behind New England, but the Patriots do play the Chiefs this Sunday and the Bills in two weeks. However, both those games are in Foxborough where the Pats are undefeated this season. Quick: name the only other NFL team perfect at home this season. Answer below in Buzzer Beaters.

Following games vs. the Ravens, Colts, and Patriots it's understandable that the lowly Broncos coming to town brings very little buzz. It's a take out the trash game for the Texans to get to 9-4. They then could wrap up the AFC South with a win in Nashville next Sunday. On the other hand, the Titans know that if they if win in Oakland Sunday, they take the South by beating the Texans twice over the final three games.

Rockets recover

Excellent bounce back win for the Rockets Thursday night in Toronto. Hitting 40 percent of 55 three point attempts facilitated the victory. That after the Rockets looked ridiculous in thinking the NBA should award them a win over the Spurs because of the James Harden uncredited dunk in Tuesday's lame loss at San Antonio. That only enhanced their reputation as a whiny organization, which is too bad because it's a really good organization. As if a basket they didn't get with more than half the fourth quarter remaining decided the game. The Rockets lost that game because they fell apart, puking up a 22 point lead against a bad Spurs team.

The Rockets lost that game because their defense disintegrated. Not a rarity so far this season. The Rockets lost that game because despite scoring 50 points James Harden was not good. 11 of 38 shooting, kept jacking up long threes on a night when he was making very few (4-20). Harden is a streaky three point shooter. Overall this season he is below NBA average behind the three point line.

The Rockets lost that game because Russell Westbrook was horrible. A triple double rings verrrrry hollow in a game where Westbrook made seven of 30 shots from the floor. As over his NBA career, Westbrook is a phenomenally exciting player to watch. Also as over his NBA career, he is a phenomenally bad outside shooter. No other player in NBA history with as lousy a three point percentage as Westbrook's is within a thousand three point attempts of Westbrook's total. So far this season he's a ridiculously inept 22 percent. The Rockets, so smart with analytics, are so dumb if they continue to encourage, or allow, Westbrook to take on average more than five threes per game. The Westbricking will continue. He's 31 years old, it's basketball insane to hope he'll now develop into a good outside shooter. Or a decent one.

The 14-7 Rockets are again clearly a very good team, but they also look like a B-list contender. At least there's plenty of season left to upgrade from there.

Astros likely to be quiet

The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings open Sunday in San Diego. The Astros' roster is now so top heavy with massive salaries that it will be a big surprise if they make any significant additions. They have no legitimate starting catcher. Resigning Robinson Chirinos seems the most likely play there. They want/need to add a back of the rotation starter and will be shopping the discount bin, but may still blanch at those prices. The Astros are unlikely to offer market value for Will Harris or Joe Smith to return to the bullpen, and instead keep clearly inferior but much cheaper guys like Chris Devenski and Joe Biagini. Trading Jake Marisnick to the Mets to shave a couple of million dollars off the payroll is a sign of the times. Myles Straw will play for about one fifth of what Marisnick will make in 2020. There are no takers for Josh Reddick's 13 million dollar salary for 2020, the Astros literally cannot give him away.

The Astros' overall talent remains outstanding. The lineup is super-stacked, the pitching should still be fine overall unless Justin Verlander or Zack Greinke shows notable slippage. But if the Yankees sign Gerrit Cole they obviously go into the season with the best American League squad on paper

​Buzzer Beaters

1. SKOL! The Vikings are 5-0 at home. 2. The NFL 100 greatest players list Friday night reveals its 13 greatest defensive backs. My all-time starting secondary: Corners Deion Sanders and Dick "Night Train" Lane. Safeties Ronnie Lott and Ed Reed. Nickel back 1980 Lester Hayes. 3. Lone Star State FBS Un-Coach of the Year medalists: Bronze-Jimbo Fisher Silver-Tom Herman Gold-Dana Holgorsen








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Astros lose to Braves, 6-2. Composite Getty Image.

Reynaldo López struck out seven over six scoreless innings, Orlando Arcia homered and the Atlanta Braves won their third straight, 6-2 over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

López (2-0) allowed four hits and walked one in his third straight sterling outing to start the season.

“It’s like I’ve always said, for me, the important thing is to focus,” López said through an interpreter. “To have the focus during the outings and then, to be able to locate those pitches.”

He has given up one run in 18 innings for an ERA of 0.50.

“He threw the ball really well against a really good hitting club,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Another solid one.”

Arcia hit a solo home run to left in the second and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Luis Guillorme and backup catcher Chadwick Tromp each hit a two-run double in the ninth to put the Braves ahead 6-0.

“Tromp has done a good job ever since we’ve been bringing him in these situations and filling in,” Snitker said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him back there. ... He’s an aggressive hitter. He’s knocked in some big runs for us in the limited time that he’s played.”

Kyle Tucker homered for the Astros leading off the ninth against Aaron Bummer, and Mauricio Dubón had a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to four. After Bummer walked Chas McCormick to put two on, Raisel Iglesias induced a groundout by Victor Caratini to end it and secure his fourth save.

“They pitched well, and our guys are grinding out at-bats,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “Even in the ninth inning there, we’re grinding, fighting until the end.”

Hunter Brown (0-3) yielded two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in six innings. Brown allowed nine runs in two-thirds of an inning in his previous start, last Thursday against Kansas City.

Brown said he executed better Tuesday than he had in his previous two starts.

“He mixed all his pitches well,” Espada said. “The breaking ball was effective. He threw some cutters in on the hands to some of those lefties. He mixed his pitches really well. That was a really strong performance.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies was placed on the 10-day injured list with a broken right big toe. IF David Fletcher had his contract selected from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Albies’ place on the roster.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation) threw a side session Tuesday, but Houston will wait until Wednesday to see how Verlander feels before deciding whether he will make his first start this weekend against the Nationals, Espada said. ... RHP Luis Garcia (right elbow surgery) threw around 20-25 pitches off the bullpen mound, and RHP José Urquidy (right forearm strain) also threw off the mound, Espada said. ... LHP Framber Valdez (left elbow soreness) played catch off flat ground.

UP NEXT

Atlanta LHP Max Fried (1-0, 8.74 ERA) starts Wednesday in the series finale opposite RHP J.P. France (0-2, 8.22).

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