THE PALLILOG

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

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

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

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Twins defeat Astros, 9-3. Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images.

Jose Miranda matched a major league record with hits in 12 straight plate appearances and Byron Buxton and Brooks Lee homered leading the Minnesota Twins to a 9-3 win over the Houston Astros on Saturday.

Miranda, playing third base, entered the game with the team-record of hits in 10 straight at-bats. The 26-year-old singled in his first two official at-bats Saturday and tied the MLB record set by the Chicago Cubs’ Johnny Kling (1902) and matched by Boston’s Pinky Higgins (1938) and Detroit’s Walt Dropo (1952). His streak ended in the sixth inning on a routine flyout to left field.

Willi Castro added three hits for Minnesota, which raced to a five-run lead in the first two innings and led 7-1 after three.

Jon Singleton hit a two-run homer for the Astros, who lost for just the third time in 16 games.

Joe Ryan (6-5) allowed three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, earning the win after three straight no-decisions.

The Twins jumped all over Hunter Brown (6-6), who had been one of the hottest pitchers in the majors. Over his previous five starts, he allowed just one earned run and struck out 34 in 31 innings pitched.

Brown did manage to complete six innings for the ninth straight outing, but gave up seven runs on a season-high 12 hits.

Every Twins starter had at least one hit by the fourth inning. Castro singled in the first, doubled in the second and singled in the third.

Lee's two-run homer in the third inning was the first of his career. The Twins' No. 2 prospect was called up on Wednesday and has seven hits in his first four games.

Buxton hit a two-run shot in the seventh to give the Twins some breathing room after Houston had the tying run at the plate in the sixth inning.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: 2B Jose Altuve (left wrist contusion) was out of the lineup a day after he was hit on the wrist by a pitch. X-rays were negative on Friday and he’s still considered day-to-day. … OF Yordon Alvarez was hit by a pitch on his right knee in the sixth inning. He remained in the game, but was removed for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning.

UP NEXT

The series wraps up on Sunday with RHP Spencer Arrighetti (4-7, 6.13 ERA) of the Astros facing RHP Simeon Woods Richardson (3-1, 3.52) of the Twins. Arrighetti lasted just four innings in his last start, giving up six earned runs while waking four against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Woods Richardson has given up at least three earned runs in four of his last six starts.

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