THE PALLILOG

Will Watt's return help the Texans rise above just being AFC South champs?

Getty Images

So do the Texans deliver and beat the Buffalo Bills Saturday in their Wild Card weekend matchup to earn a shot at Baltimore or Kansas City, or do they lose another home playoff game and continue to be a division winning team irrelevant to the contending tier of NFL franchises? It's not a coincidence that the Texans without fail have opened all of their postseasons in the Saturday afternoon time slot.

How tingly with anticipation have you been this week? "Not very if at all" would put you in a large majority. If the Texans are ever to truly matter in the NFL, unless they finally secure a bye one of these years, winning a wild card game is a necessary step. The only way to win one is to be in one, so they get credit for that much. Hey, at least the Texans have managed to win three playoff games since coming into existence. Granted two came over mediocre Bengals squads, the third over a Raiders team quarterbacked by a stiff in his only ever NFL start. The Bills last won a playoff game December 30, 1995. That's amazing futility.

This is definitely not a game the Texans clearly should win. The Bills won 10 games just like the Texans, though Buffalo's only win over a playoff team was beating the Titans when Tennessee was still spinning its wheels with Marcus Mariota at QB. The Texans beat three playoff teams: Chiefs, Patriots, Ryan Tannehill QB-ed Titans.

The Texans have the more potent offense though the gap is diminished if the ever-delicate Will Fuller is a non-factor. The Bills definitely have the much better defense. That gap is diminished if J.J. Watt's return, even in a presumed limited role, provides a boost to the Texans otherwise generally effete pass rush. It projects as a lower scoring game. That lends itself to one big play, or lucky bounce, or bad call being a bigger difference maker in the outcome.

As a second year QB a year ago Deshaun Watson was terrible in his playoff debut. The Texans hope the same for Bills' second year QB Josh Allen.

Head Coach Bill O'Brien's postseason performance has basically been awful. The lone win over the Connor Cook-lead Raiders. Last year's humiliating home loss to the Colts joined a 30-0 home shellacking by the Chiefs in Texans' ignominy. Unless blown out, a loss to the Bills would not be shameful unto itself. But where the Texans are as a franchise, should they lose, their latest cute little AFC South Champion banner should be draped upside down.

Clock is ticking on Watt

J.J. Watt as Football Lazarus. What can be reasonably hoped for/expected out of the greatest player in Texans' history? Watt last played October 27th. As opposed to when recovering from his knee and back injuries, while rehabbing is torn pectoral muscle Watt has been able to do conditioning work. Still, that's not the same as playing full contact football. The Texans this season had one of the weakest pass rushes in the NFL. Watt can't fix that singlehandedly, but if he can generate pressure over 20 to 25 snaps it would be a big boost to the Texans' cause. Before he went down with the torn pec, in eight games played Watt had only four sacks. He did however top the NFL in hits on the quarterback. If Watt is right he brings superior athleticism to his position, which would come in handy dealing with Bills quarterback Josh Allen, one of the best running QBs in the NFL

Watt moves around on the line of scrimmage but more than anywhere else he lines up at left defensive end. That is opposite the offense's right tackle. Bills starting RT Ty Ensekhe missed five straight games before returning Sunday and aggravating an ankle injury. If Ensekhe can't go, Watt gets after rookie Cody Ford.

In March Watt turns 31. The clock is ticking on his chances at making a substantial contribution with the Texans at a championship level above winning the AFC South.

Busy schedule

ESPN has the Rockets-76ers game Friday night at Toyota Center, tipping about an hour after ESPN2 has the Houston Cougars in their AAC opener vs. Central Florida. Then Saturday, ESPN has Texans-Bills.

Not much happening on the baseball front

All's been quiet on the Astros front. They've added no talent to the roster for 2020, and await Major League Baseball's lowering the boom from the Brandon Taubman and Astros-as-cheaters investigations. Their biggest loss was Gerrit Cole to the Yankees. Second biggest, Will Harris taking the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach (and 24 million dollars over three years) to sign with the Washington Nationals. That's better for the Astros than if Harris had joined the A's.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Picking the Bills to win. Show me otherwise Texans. Please. 2. If Tre'Davious White largely shuts down DeAndre Hopkins, uh oh. 3. Best NFL broadcast teams this weekend: Bronze-Buck/Aikman Fox Silver-Nantz/Romo CBS Gold-Michaels/Collinsworth NBC

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston went yard several times

Astros take series from Angels with a home run parade

Houston homered their way to another series win Wednesday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After losing the opener then winning an exciting game Tuesday night, the Astros were seeking another series victory by winning the rubber match on Wednesday. They would blast homers all through the night, pushing them over the Angels in the finale.

Final Score: Astros 9, Angels 1

Astros' Record: 20-17, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (2-2)

Losing Pitcher: Andrew Heaney (1-3)

Astros grab an early lead, Urquidy exits with injury

Houston made early noise in Wednesday night's game, with Jose Altuve turning around the very first pitch of the bottom of the first inning for a solo homer. A two-out single later in the inning set up Yuli Gurriel for his seventh home run and 30th RBI of the season, putting the Astros out to an early 3-0 lead.

Jose Urquidy looked in control through the first three innings, allowing just two hits while maintaining the lead. However, after recording the second out of the fourth, he would be visited by training and coaching staff on the mound before being removed, later diagnosed with posterior shoulder discomfort. Brandon Bielak would quickly enter the game, picking up where Urquidy left off by keeping the Angels off the board.

Tucker stays hot as Bielak locks in out of the bullpen

Still 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Kyle Tucker would extend his recent hot streak by putting two more runs on the board with a blast to extend the lead to 5-0. Bielak remained in the game in the top of the seventh, having allowed just one hit while retiring all other batters since entering in the top of the fourth. He made it through that inning, putting Los Angeles down 1-2-3, and stayed on the mound in the top of the eighth.

He wouldn't be able to get any further, allowing a leadoff walk followed by a single, putting runners on the corners and prompting Dusty Baker to go to the third pitcher of the night, Andre Scrubb. The Angels would get on the board with a sac fly to make it 5-1, but Scrubb would finish the inning with no further damage.

Astros continue the home run barrage to take the series

Yordan Alvarez would get the run back with Houston's fourth dinger of the night, a solo shot to make it 6-1. They continued to pour it on, with Chaz McCormick joining the home run parade with a three-run blast later in the inning, making it 9-1. Joe Smith would take over on the mound in the top of the ninth, finishing off the lopsided win to give Houston the series victory as they turn the page to another division opponent.

Up Next: Having already faced the rest of the division in 2021 multiple times, the Astros will have their first series against the Texas Rangers starting Thursday at 7:10 PM Central at Minute Maid Park. In the opener, Cristian Javier (3-1, 2.90 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston, going up against Mike Foltynewicz (1-3, 4.50 ERA).

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome