Every-Thing Sports

Why the Texans will/won't make a run in the playoffs

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The playoffs are upon us. Every season around this time, I feel like one of the Stark kids in Game of Thrones when they talk about how Ned always said "Winter is coming." Well, it's here and it looks like it'll be a doozy. The NFC is deeper than the Grand Canyon when it comes to Super Bowl contenders. Meanwhile, the AFC resembles a shaky spades hand: one for sure book (the Ravens) and a bunch of possibles (everyone else).

The Texans are one of those possibles. They're one of those teams that can make the playoffs, have some exciting pieces, and always keep themselves close enough to have a shot. What they do with that shot is another story. Historically, they haven't done much. Lots of Wildcard or Divisional round losses, some of which are flaming disasters. This year's team is no different. Or are they?

Why they will

-The success of any good to great football team starts and ends with the quarterback. Whether he's a playmaking savant, or an incubating game-manager, it doesn't matter. The guy controlling the ball on every snap is where it begins and ends with a team's chances for success. If Deshaun Watson can eliminate stupid mistakes, use his athleticism and playmaking ability to take over games, the Texans will be hard to beat. He has limited weapons due to injury and lack of depth, but the truly great ones find a way regardless.

-Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson were very late additions to the running back depth chart and have proven to be valuable in different ways. Hyde has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing, while Johnson has proven to be a change of pace and pass-catching option out the backfield. If both guys can continue to produce and step their game up, this offense is hard to defend and can put up points with just about anyone.

-Defense wins championships. That phrase has been around for years. It held more meaning 20 or so years ago, but still rings true to this day (see least year's Super Bowl). This defense isn't frightening, but it can be. They've proven to be better against the run than the pass. If they can force teams to be one dimensional, it'll give them a better shot at winning. Easier said than done. I get that. But with guys like D.J. Reader and Angelo Blackson clogging things up in the interior, it'll make the run easier to defend and the pass more predictable.

Why they won't

-Bill O'Brien is either this team's biggest catalyst, or it's heaviest albatross. More often than not, he's been an albatross. Clock management, play calling, and general jackassery have hampered this team's chances at winning far too often. This was magnified this past offseason when he became the Grand Poobah of Houston pro football. Not knowing when to call timeouts or challenges, calling predictable plays or calling the wrong ones at the wrong time, and horribly botching personnel decisions have all led this team to purgatory. They're too good to give up on in hopes of tanking for higher draft picks, but they're talented enough to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot every year. It's all on O'Brien's head at this point, and it doesn't look very promising.

-The pass rush and coverage have been terrible. I know J.J. Watt has been injured. I get it that they've added bodies throughout the year. I'm also well aware that the guys they've added have been castoffs from other teams. However, Romeo Crennel is a veteran defensive coordinator who knows how to win and has won in this league. Why is it that he can't seem to scheme something up to cover up for the defense's deficiencies? The lack of talent and the scheme shortcomings are going to cost this team come playoff time.

-The same thing that makes Watson great, are some of the same things that get him, and this team, in trouble. He often extends plays by escaping sacks. He also makes poor decisions when doing do that cos this team. The interception Titans' safety Kenny Vaccacro on Watson's attempt to find Johnson in the end zone was a prime example. He didn't/couldn't recognize the coverage (cover 2 disguised with a single high saftey that looks like man or cover three), scrambled out of the pocket to evade the rush, and made a late throw across the field. Knowing when and how to get rid of the football and protecting your team's possessions are all apart of being great. If Watson truly wants to be one of the best, he will eliminate these brain farts.


I firmly believe this team will: either barely get by their Wildcard opponent (looking like the Bills) and lose in the Divisional round, or they'll bomb at home and lose in the Wildcard round like they have in previous years. Either way, I don't see them going to the AFC championship game. There are too many factors against them. Chief among them is the simple fact that there are better and more complete teams in the AFC with homefield. This is a team that'll need things to break too perfectly for them in order for them to beat the likes of the Ravens, Patriots, or Chiefs on the road in the playoffs. Stranger things have happened. I'm not hating. Just calling it like I see it, or better yet, like we've all seen it over the course of this team's history.

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Ryan Pressly and Kyle Tucker are representing the USA in the WBC. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

I’m hearing voices in Houston sports media calling for the end of the World Baseball Classic – or at least a boycott by the Houston Astros – because Jose Altuve suffered a broken thumb during the Venezuela vs. USA game, will require surgery, and is out for 8-10 weeks.

I know, it sucks that our star second baseball and team leader will miss about a third of the 2023 season. But it wasn’t the World Baseball Classic that threw the 96 mph fastball that struck Altuve in the hand – it was a pitch that got away from Colorado Rockies reliever Daniel Bard – a respected MLB veteran, former first-round draft pick and winner of Comeback Player of the Year in 2020.

It just happened to one of our guys. It happens.

Blaming Altuve’s injury on the World Baseball Classic makes no more sense than pinning Lance McCullers’ latest injury on MLB’s traditional spring training. McCullers was diagnosed with an elbow strain after throwing a bullpen session at Astros camp in West Palm Beach, Fla.

At least Altuve incurred his unfortunate injury facing an experienced MLB veteran in a game that meant a lot to the Astros’ future Hall of Famer. It wasn’t during a meaningless game in Florida against a minor league pitcher with control problems wearing No. 92 on his uniform with no chance of making the parent club.

I like the World Baseball Classic. Judging from TV ratings on Fox Sports channels and large crowds, the event was a success. Teams from 20 countries participated – that’s 14 more countries than sent baseball teams to the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.

The WBC is growing in popularity and participation. Twenty countries sent teams to the WBC this year, up from 16 last time. Great Britain, the Czech Republic, and Nicaragua sent teams for the first time. They joined squads from traditional baseball powerhouses like the USA, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Japan, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and The Netherlands. Yes, The Netherlands. They take baseball very seriously there.

China and Chinese Taipei played together on the same field. Israel sent a team, including Bellaire Little League product Josh Wolf.

Baseball needs the WBC if it wants to expand its footprint globally like the NBA has, and the NFL is trying to do.

Some are saying, fine, the WBC has its merits but springtime isn’t the right time. Players are out of shape, at least not in midseason baseball shape, and the event is competing for media coverage with March Madness, NFL free agency, and the NBA’s playoff push.

While that’s true, any time of year you picked for the WBC would clash with other big-time sports events. Sports is a yearlong obsession worldwide.

A reasonable rescheduling might be during the middle of the MLB season, during what is now the All-Star break. Soccer takes midseason breaks for tournaments. Sure it will be weird at first for baseball, but the All-Star Game isn’t the attraction or honor it once was. Now players make suspect excuses to avoid playing in it.

Doing away with baseball’s All-Star Game and slotting the WBC in its place might be a good idea. The NFL has all but killed its Pro Ball and replaced it with a silly flag football game that nobody cares about. The NBA All-Star Game is a joke 3-point contest with even less defense than the actual 3-point contest.

And while baseball players may not be in midseason form during the WBC now, it’s not like the old days when players needed spring training to lose winter flab and wake up their muscles from hibernation. Most baseball players stay in shape all year. They have personal trainers, private chefs and workout rooms in their swankiendas. Back when, baseball players worked at local breweries and sponsors’ businesses during the winter to make ends meet. Not today.

Spring training, come on, really is a little ridiculous. The Astros will have played 30 practice games before Opening Day this season. NFL teams play only three preseason games. NBA teams play only four. College football teams play only none.

The championship game of the World Baseball Classic has the USA with its superstar lineup including Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and many more against Japan with some guy named Shohei Ohtani. How perfect is that?

The WBC truly is a “world series” for the sport. It may take a little tinkering but baseball needs it. Even if it hurts at first – more precisely at second if you’re the Astros.

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