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Who Have The Texans Beat

It’s that time of year again: time to play “WHO...HAVE...THEY...BEAT!”

Every season as the playoffs grow near, fans from every fan base start believing more in their franchise. Part of this holiday tradition is to look at other possible playoff teams and ask the question, “Who have they beat?” Let’s answer that question as we head into Week 16.

I’ve decided to look at the top contenders in the AFC to see who they have beaten, lost to or tied. Let the festivities begin!

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Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)

  • Signature Win: Week 1 in L.A. they knocked off the (11-3) Chargers 38-28
  • Other Wins vs teams .500 or better:

Week 2 - 42-37 at Pittsburgh (8-5-1)

Week 14 - 27-24 vs Baltimore (8-6)

  • Worst Lost: No losses to a team .500 or below
  • Other Losses:

Week 6 - 43-40 at New England (9-5)

Week 11 - 54-51 at Los Angeles Rams (11-3)

Week 15 - 29-28 vs Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Browns (6-7-1)

Broncos (6-8)

Broncos (6-8)

Bengals (6-8)

Jaguars (4-10)

49ers (4-10)

Cardinals (3-11)

Raiders (3-11)

Chiefs’ glass half-full: They haven’t lost to anyone with less than nine wins.

Chief’s glass half-empty: While they haven’t lost to anyone with a .500 record or worse, they are only 1-3 against teams with nine or more wins entering week 16.

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Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)

  • Signature Win: Week 14 in K.C. they knocked off the (11-3) Chiefs 29-28
  • Other Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 7 - 20-19 vs Tennessee (8-6)

Week 9 - 25-17 at Seattle (8-6)

Week 13 - 33-30 at Pittsburgh (8-5-1)

  • Worst Lost: Week 11 - 23-22 vs Broncos (6-8)
  • Other Losses:

Week 1 - 38-28 vs Kansas City (11-3)

Week 3 - 35-23 at Los Angeles Rams (11-3)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Browns (6-7-1)

Bengals (6-8)

Bills (4-9)

49ers (4-10)

Raiders (3-11)

Raiders (3-11)

Cardinals (3-11)

Chargers glass half-full: Second most wins in the AFC playoff race vs teams with a winning record.

Chargers glass half-empty: As with the Chiefs, 10 of their 11 wins have come against teams with 8 wins or fewer and are 1-2 (including a split with the Chiefs) when facing teams with more than 8 wins.

Houston Texans helmet.png

Houston Texans (10-4)

  • Signature Win: Haven’t beaten a team with more than eight wins
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 4 - 37-34 at Indianapolis (8-6)

Week 5 - 19-16 vs Dallas (8-6)

Week 8 - 42-23 vs Miami (7-7)

Week 11 - 23-21 at Washington (7-7)

Week 12 - 34-17 vs Tennessee (8-6)

  • Worst Lost: Week 3 - 27-22 vs Giants (5-9)
  • Other Losses:

Week 1 - 27-20 at New England (9-5)

Week 2 - 20-17 at Tennessee (8-6)

Week 14 - 24-21 vs Indianapolis (8-6)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Browns (6-7-1)

Broncos (6-8)

Bills (5-9)

Jaguars (4-10)

Jets (4-10)

Texans glass half-full: Tied for the second most wins against teams that are .500 or better, in the AFC. Houston has lost by a total of 18 points in their four defeats, with totals of 7, 3, 5 and 3 points being the amount they have come up short in their four losses.

Texans glass half-empty: Haven’t not been tested with a tough schedule. Have only played one team with more than eight wins. That game was back in Week 1 in Foxboro and saw the now (9-5) Patriots win 27-20.

NE Patriots helmet.png

New England Patriots (9-5)

  • Signature Win: Week 6 vs Kansas City (11-3), 43-40
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 1 - 27-20 vs Houston (10-4)

Week 4 - 38-7 vs Miami (7-7)

Week 5 - 38-24 vs Indianapolis (8-6)

Week 7 - 38-31 at Chicago (10-4)

Week 13 - 24-10 vs Minnesota (7-6-1)

  • Worst Loss: Week 2 - 31-20 at Jacksonville (4-10)
  • Other Losses:

Week 3 - 26-10 at Detroit (5-9)

Week 10 - 34-10 at Tennessee (8-6)

Week 14 - 34-33 at Miami (7-7)

Week 15 - 17-10 at Pittsburgh (8-5-1)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Packers (5-8-1)

Bills (5-9)

Jets (4-10)

Patriots glass half-full: Five wins against teams with a winning record. No other playoff contender has more than three such wins. New England also has three wins against teams who have won 10+ games, while no other AFC team has more than one.

Patriots glass half-empty: Patriots are 3-5 on the road this season and 6-0 at home. They are a bad road team, which shows in all five road losses coming to teams with eight or fewer wins. This is tied with the Dolphins for the most such losses.

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Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1)

  • Signature Win: Week 15 vs New England (9-5), 17-10
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 9 - 23-16 at Baltimore (8-6)

  • Worst Lost: Week 14 - 24-21 at Oakland (3-11)
  • Other Losses:

Week 1 - 21-21 TIE at Cleveland (6-7-1)

Week 2 - 42-37 vs Kansas City (11-3)

Week 4 - 26-14 vs Baltimore (8-6)

Week 12 - 24-17 at Denver (6-8)

Week 13 - 33-30 vs Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Browns (6-7-1)

Bengals (6-8)

Panthers (6-8)

Bucs (5-9)

Falcons (5-9)

Jaguars (4-10)

Steelers glass half-full: The early season loss to the Ravens was the only one for the Steelers this season by a margin greater than one possession.

Steelers glass half-empty: They’ve only beaten two teams all season that currently have eight or more wins, including a split with the Ravens. They are 2-3 in these games.

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Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

  • Signature Win: Haven’t beat a team with more than eight wins
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 4 - 26-14 at Pittsburgh (8-5-1)

Week 6 - 21-0 at Tennessee (8-6)

  • Worst Lost: Week 8 - 36-21 at Carolina (6-8)
  • Other Losses:

Week 2 - 34-23 at Cincinnati (6-8)

Week 5 - 12-9 at Cleveland (6-7-1)

Week 7 - 24-23 vs New Orleans (12-2)

Week 9 - 23-16 vs Pittsburgh (8-5-1)

Week 14 - 27-24 at Kansas City (11-3)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Bengals (6-8)

Broncos (6-8)

Bills (5-9)

Bucs (5-9)

Falcons (5-9)

Raiders (3-13)

Ravens glass half-full: Lost by a total of only four points to the 12-win Saints and 11-win Chiefs.

Ravens glass half-empty: As is the case with the Texans, the Ravens haven’t beaten a team with nine or more wins this season, and as is the case with the Steelers, Baltimore is 2-3 (including a split with Pittsburgh) when playing teams with eight or more wins this season.

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Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

  • Signature Win: Week 14 at Houston (10-4), 24-21
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 2 - 21-9 at Washington (7-7)

Week 11 - 38-10 vs Tennessee (8-6)

Week 12 - 27-24 vs Miami (7-7)

Week 15 - 23-0 vs Dallas (8-6)

  • Worst Lost: Week 6 - 42-34 at New York Jets (4-10)
  • Other Losses:

Week 1 - 34-23 vs Cincinnati (6-8)

Week 3 - 20-16 at Philadelphia (7-7)

Week 4 - 37-34 vs Houston (10-4)

Week 5 - 38-24 at New England (9-5)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Bengals (6-8)

Broncos (6-8)

Bills (5-9)

Bucs (5-9)

Falcons (5-9)

Raiders (3-13)

Colts glass half-full: Indianapolis is 4-0 in their last four games vs teams that are .500 or better.

Colt glass half-empty: The toughest competition that they have faced was the Texans (10-4) and the Patriots (9-5). They split with the Texans and lost to the Patriots. That goes along with two losses to 4-win teams, early on this season.

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Tennessee Titans (8-6)

  • Signature Win: Week 2 vs Houston (10-4), 20-17
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 4 - 26-23 vs Philly (7-7)

Week 9 - 28-14 at Dallas (8-6)

Week 10 - 34-10 vs New England (9-5)

  • Worst Lost: Week 5 - 13-12 at Buffalo (5-9)
  • Other Losses:

Week 1 - 27-20 at Miami (7-7)

Week 6 - 21-0 vs Baltimore (8-6)

Week 7 - 20-19 at Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)

Week 11 - 38-10 at Indianapolis (8-6)

Week 12 - 34-17 at Houston (10-4)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Giants (5-9)

Jets (4-10)

Jaguars (4-10)

Jaguars (4-10)

Titans glass half-full: One of only three AFC teams to have multiple wins over teams with nine or more wins.

Titans glass half-empty: Most likely playing for a wild card spot, which would mean a first-round road trip. Tennessee is 3-5 on the road this season. They have lost four of their last six games against teams that are currently in the hunt for the NFL playoffs.

Miami Dolphins helmet.png

Miami Dolphins (7-7)

  • Signature Win: Week 6 vs Chicago (10-4), 31-28
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 1 - 27-20 vs Tennessee (8-6)

Week 14 - 34-33 vs New England (9-5)

  • Worst Lost: Week 7 - 32-21 vs Detroit (5-9)
  • Other Losses:

Week 4 - 38-7 at New England (9-5)

Week 5 - 27-17 at Cincinnati (6-8)

Week 8 - 42-23 at Houston (10-4)

Week 10 - 31-12 at Green Bay (5-8-1)

Week 12 - 27-24 at Indianapolis (8-6)

Week 15 - 41-17 at Minnesota (7-6-1)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Bills (5-9)

Jets (4-10)

Jets (4-10)

Raiders (3-11)

Dolphins glass half-full: Tied in the AFC with the Titans for the second most wins against teams with nine or more victories this season.

Dolphins glass half-empty: Miami has an equally awful loss to match each quality victory. They are 1-6 on the road this year.

You have your ammunition now; happy hunting!

The Real Difference between 2018 and 2012 Is Deshaun Watson

I’ve heard over the last few weeks that “These Texans aren’t as good as the 2012 Texans.” I decided to pull the stats for comparison’s sake. What I found was encouraging.

The Texans still need two more wins to match the 12-4 record from the 2012 season. Houston travels to Philadelphia this weekend to take on the reigning world champs. Nick Foles, the Texas high school star quarterback and the savior of the 2017 miraculous championship ride, is back in the saddle for the 7-7 Eagles. The Texans then finish out the season at home against the Jaguars.

When I dig into the stats, what really jumps out about 2018 is how the Texans are 30th in red zone and goal-to-go percent on defense this season. On the opposite side of the ball, the Texans are tied for 26th in red zone percent and tied for 27th in goal-to-go percent. These are troubling categories for this year’s club.

The rest of the numbers were intriguing, especially what Brad Seely is doing with the Texans special teams unit on both sides, in year one. After looking all of the columns over, I found it odd how similar the points per game were. Neither of these teams were “fluke” four-loss teams.

JBraddock 2018 vs 2012 table 1.png

The biggest difference between the 2012 and 2018 teams for the Houston franchise is at the most important position in all of sports, quarterback. While we can’t compare Matt Schaub’s 16 games from that season to Deshaun Watson’s 16 games for this season yet, the 14 games in the book do give us a large enough sample size for a fair comparison into who they were as quarterbacks during their team’s success and failures.

JBraddock 2018 vs 2012 table 2.png

*splits courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Deshaun Watson is built for this; but Matt Schaub was what Kirk Cousins is today. A Schaub or a Cousins will get the big contract because he can be a top 10 regular season fantasy quarterback, run the offense, and get you to the playoffs, if there is a strong enough team around him.

Watson elevates the team around him. He always has. Watson has shown in high school, college and the pros that he’s among the best of the best. He’s also shown that he can take his game to the next level whenever he needs to. Whether it’s the playoffs or a game the team needs on the road in Philadelphia in late December, the 2012 team didn’t have a big moment quarterback. Watson excels in the biggest moments; Schaub exacerbated those moments.

Saying the 2012 Texans team was/is better than the 2018 Texans team is the same as being the guy who said back in 1992, “Christian Laettner is a better fit on the Dream Team than Shaq.”

Houston Texans Playoff Scenarios

There are two weeks to go in the NFL regular season. The Houston Texans can clinch a playoff spot, the AFC South and/or a first round bye. The latter has never been accomplished by this franchise, which played its first season in 2002.

CLINCHES PLAYOFF SPOT

  1. Baltimore Ravens loss or tie; OR
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers loss; OR
  3. Tennessee Titans loss or tie + Houston clinches Strength of Victory tiebreaker over the Ravens

After starting 0-3 this season, the thought of any playoff berth would have been considered a positive. But now, after their historical turnaround, the Texans, their fans and the media would all consider it a colossal failure if the team slid into the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

CLINCHES AFC SOUTH

  1. Houston Texans win or tie; OR
  2. Indianapolis Colts loss or tie + Tennessee Titans loss or tie

The Texans are past the phase in franchise history where AFC South championships are celebrated. Sure, acknowledge the accolade after the season, but it doesn’t feel like the accomplishment it once was for the Texans.

By no means is that a knock on what the Texans have achieved. Actually, it’s a tip of the hat to a franchise finally getting over the 9-7 hurdle. No letterman’s jackets, no Albert Haynesworth or TJ Yates. This is real. This is a championship caliber team, but to reach that potential, they’ll need to seize every advantage.

CLINCHES FIRST ROUND BYE

  1. Houston Texans win + New England Patriots loss or tie; OR
  2. Houston Texans tie + New England Patriots loss

This is the ultimate regular season prize: a postseason bye week. By securing the bye, the Texans would also, obviously, play one game fewer in the playoffs, automatically jumping to the next round of the AFC playoffs.

While the Texans heal and watch their future opponent, they’ll do so at home. Their opponent would have to travel to Houston after playing an extra game to take on the rested Texans. Consider the advantage: Another week of rest and/or preparation for Lamar Miller, D’Onta Foreman, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Dunn, JJ Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, DeAndre Carter and any other newly acquired or promoted player who steps in due to a week 16 or 17 injury.

Prime-Time Watson

Lately I’ve been writing about Deshaun Watson and how he’s a different beast in big moments. Later I found some splits from ESPN, and they, too, point to Watson elevating his game when the pressure is at a breaking point for normal mortals. Here are more splits from Watson’s 2018 season through 15 weeks:

I previously mentioned Watson’s performances in back-to-back College Football Championship games against the vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide defense. In those two games he threw for 825 yards and 7 touchdowns to only 1 interception and tacked on 116 rushing yards and one touchdown. He’s a different creation.

Watson now has the Clemson Connection with DeAndre Hopkins, the NFL’s best wide receiver to throw to in big moments. This tandem will be at its peak over the next month and a half.

It’s not only the Super Bowl that is motivating them. Hopkins is on the cusp of doing something that hasn’t been done since 2014. That was the year Antonio Brown had 129 receptions for 1,698 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, leading the AFC in all three categories. That’s known as the Triple Crown for wide receivers.

Hopkins is in the running for the AFC wide receiver Triple Crown this season. There are three wide receivers in the AFC who have a shot with two games to go:

JBraddock Houston Texans Playoff Scenarios chart 1.png

DeAndre Hopkins recorded career highs in receptions and yards in 2015 with 111 receptions for 1,521 yards. His career high in receiving touchdowns came last season when he hauled in 13. To set career highs in all three categories, he’ll need to catch 18 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns over the next two games.

Whether he reaches the Triple Crown or not, people are already noticing that DeAndre Hopkins is not one of the best receivers in the NFL; he is, in fact, the top receiver in the game. Matt Harmon of Yahoo Sports tweeted these impressive numbers on the sixth-year playmaker:

Hopkins and Watson are the best young quarterback-receiver tandem in the NFL. Watson plays his best in the biggest of moments. The more highly-contested windows in the postseason are a non-issue for Hopkins, as this is where he excels.

This Texans team has a lot to play for over the next two weeks; a Wild Card spot or the AFC South crown will not feed the appetite of this city and this team. The coming matchup with the Eagles is no regular Week 16 game; it’s an elimination game, and the Texans have to play with an elimination mindset.

If the Texans beat the Eagles, they’ll only have a Jaguars team standing in front of them and a berth into the second round of the AFC playoffs. A win would ensure that the Texans wouldn’t leave the city of Houston until the AFC Championship game, at the earliest.

It’s Christmas time in Houston, and if you’re still not convinced that the Clemson Connection has all of your Holiday needs taken care of, take solace in knowing the Houston sports gods received an extra sacrifice just in time to ensure victory in this game. I had thought the injuries to Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Lance McCullers and others, along with the Astros sacrificing back-to-back titles, would be enough to appease them, but apparently they required Chris Paul’s hamstring ... again.

It’s the way things work down here. We aren’t allowed to have everything go right. The price has to be paid. Watson gave up another ACL for the Astros last year, so it’s only fair that Chris Paul would sacrifice his hamstring for the Texans. Better now than in Game 6! D’oh, still too soon.

Where's the Buzz in Houston?

The Houston Texans just won their 10th game of the season and have a chance to secure a bye week in their next two games, but there is little to no buzz around the city. More than likely you have heard someone attempt to convince you to enjoy this season, a season that includes a nine-game win streak and 10 wins out of 11 games. On paper, it’s hard to understand why any Houstonian needs convincing to enjoy the ride. Houston hasn't seen this much success since its playoff runs in 2011 and 2012; so why does it seem like there was a bigger buzz during those years than this season?

2011 Houston Texans Season

A season that almost didn’t happen due to a NFL lockout in negotiations of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, 2011 was Gary Kubiak’s do-or-die season. In 2010 it seemed like his regime had bottomed out, going 6-10 for the season. It took virtually everyone in Houston by surprise when Bob McNair chose to keep him the following year. The unpopular move made sense: offense was never a problem under Kubiak’s regime, but after having the worst defense in the league, it was time for an established defensive coordinator. In came Wade Phillips, and he proved to be the difference in turning the Texans into a playoff team.

Kubiak, entering his sixth season, could not afford to have a rough start, especially when he had spent five years with the team but still had never achieved a playoff berth. In this 2011 season he had every reason to collapse under such immense pressure; and Arian Foster, the 2010 league leading rusher in yards, being out for the first three games of the season didn’t help either.

This was just the beginning of a season where the Texans embraced the phrase “next man up.” Andre Johnson would be out several weeks after suffering a non-contact hamstring injury in a scary scene against the defending AFC Champ Pittsburgh Steelers. Mario Williams seemed to be reborn under Wade Phillips’s system, but suffered a season-ending injury in Week 5 against Oakland. Most notably, Houston lost its starting quarterback Matt Schaub; this happened in the middle of a hot four-game win streak that destroyed opponents like the Titans (41-7), Jacksonville (24-14), Cleveland (30-12), and Tampa Bay (37-9).

Houston was erupting with passion for the Texans, who were having their most successful season at 7-3 despite all the injuries to its biggest of stars and core players. When TJ Yates led the team to its eighth victory, optimism was restored, and Texans fans were thinking why not us and why not TJ Yates? The buzz only grew when TJ led the Texans to victory against an Atlanta Falcons team that was 7-4 and winners of five of their last six. When the winning streak continued on the road in December in Cincinnati, clinching the division and a playoff berth, the city’s enthusiasm was at an all-time high. A franchise that had never been to the playoffs, that dealt with injuries to their best running back, their best wide receiver, their best pass rusher, and their best quarterback, didn’t make excuses. Instead the Texans rose to the challenge and earned their first division championship and playoff berth, and had the city believing in the possibility of a Super Bowl berth with a 5th round, 3rd string quarterback.

2012 Houston Texans Season

After losing to the Ravens in the Divisional Round by just 7 points, Houston maintained its buzz, and any skepticism about Kubiak’s future was in the rear-view mirror. The Texans would enter the season losing two of their best offensive linemen and losing Mario Williams to a big pay day. But they regained their starting quarterback that many believe would have taken them all the way the previous year. The Texans would have their best start in Franchise History, going 5-0 with games that included the eventual comeback player of the year Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. Houston Fans were now beating their chests as they saw their team carrying on just as they had been before Schaub’s injury.

New fans had jumped on board during the Texans’ first playoff run, but the bandwagon really blew up on this 2012 run. In 2011, Sonic restaurants had run a promotion that offered customers a free Slush if the Texans scored on the first drive of the second half. In 2012, the offer was applied to any Texans win, creating a whole new fan experience. There are still places in Houston that offer freebies for Texans victories, but none blew up like the Sonic offer. It was the Great Texans Slushes Epidemic, with lines that spilled into the street; demand was so high that employees brought out carts of Slushes just to get the line moving. If you happened to drive by a Sonic on a Tuesday, it was rare to find one without heavy traffic.

Texan fans were excited about their team dominating the league, with wins against Peyton Manning, a dismantling of the eventual Super Bowl Champs Ravens, a cold and muddy slugfest with the one-loss Bears in primetime, back-to-back overtime victories that included a thanksgiving comeback against the Lions … I could go on, but I digress. A hype song for the season, Texans superfan Dre Ladon recorded a hype song for 2011 and made a new song for 2012 titled “H Up 4 Dem Texans.” It featured an Antonio Smith cameo, along with Rich Lord of Sports Radio 610 and Josh Innes in a generic Texans jersey.

When the city buzzes as loud as Houston was, Houston Legends will take notice. Slim Thug, Paul Wall, and Z-RO teamed up with Director Michael Artis to make another Texans Hype song called “Houston.” The video included Texans players such as JJ Watt, Arian Foster, Brian Cushing, and Duane Brown. If you haven’t heard it before, shame on you; if you have, it brings back the nostalgic memories of the Houston feeling like our appetite for a championship would be fulfilled.

2018 Houston Texans Season

Here we are in 2018, a season that now claims the franchise’s longest win streak under head coach Bill Obrien. It’s our fourth winning season in five years, but there is a clear difference in the city’s reaction to its wins. On paper, seeing the Texans 10-4 with a chance to clinch a bye, with Deshaun Watson as your Quarterback, JJ Watt back to his defensive MVP form, Deandre Hopkins looking like the best wide receiver in the game, we should feel like this championship is ours to lose. As the Texans take it one game at a time, so have we seen it as one game at a time, and although the results say W, reactions of fans are as harsh as if it were an L. Week after week, we have heard the classic “A win is a win,” or “It may have been ugly, but at least we got the W.” I get it, no team is perfect, but these quotes should be an anomaly during a successful season. Instead, they have been the theme of the entire season.

A season that started 0-3 to turn around and go 10-4 shouldn’t find any fan needing to be convinced to enjoy the ride. It’s understandable if you feel that way, if you feel that this entire season has been a “Muppets Meme” saying “This ain’t it, chief.” You don’t have to force yourself to think otherwise; if you feel that is urine hitting your back, don’t let anyone else convince you it is rain. But this team has the potential to be where they belong, in Deshaun Watson’s hometown Atlanta Georgia, in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in February. The Texans have all the right ingredients to be the last one standing this year; it’s up to the chef to know how to prepare it.

Most recent

Rockets Sign Austin Rivers to a Deal for the Rest of the Season

The Houston Rockets have signed another contributor to the team, and it is someone that people are not too fond of in Houston. Austin Rivers has been a somewhat forgotten player for the Washington Wizards this season.

The Wizards are a dysfunctional franchise right now. There is drama going on between John Wall and Bradley Beal, and Dwight Howard doesn’t help the cause of bringing peace to the locker room. They have just traded for Trevor Ariza to hopefully fix all the dysfunction going on with the franchise. But notice that Austin Rivers is not the problem in this situation. He is just a bystander in the bigger picture.

For those that did not know, the Wizards traded for Trevor Ariza and sent Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers to the Suns. Not long after the trade, the Suns immediately bought out Austin Rivers and made him a free agent. There was speculation that he may end up with Grizzlies, according to Shams Charania (in a now-deleted Tweet). But ultimately, he decided to join the Houston Rockets. The timing could not have been better, as the Rockets have lost Chris Paul to yet another hamstring injury. Luckily, it isn’t the Western Conference Finals (Sorry to bring up bad memories).

The Rockets are picking up a solid player for a minimum deal. His minutes are way down compared to last year. Rivers played nearly 34 minutes per game last season, compared to the nearly 24 minutes a game he was getting this year with the Wizards. His field goal stats are also down compared to what they were last year (from 43% overall to 39% overall and 38% from three to 31% from three). So, I can see why everyone is arguing against the signing. (Stats courtesy of ESPN.)

But let’s try to find a positive with Austin Rivers.

  1. He is an immediate upgrade to the Rockets’ bench.

With Chris Paul sidelined at least another 2-3 weeks, if not more, the Rockets need as many ball handlers/scorers as they can possibly have. This will relieve some of the tension from James Harden and hopefully not put as much wear and tear on him during the regular season. The Rockets need to find a way to conserve James as much as they can this season, and Austin Rivers can help the cause.

  1. He is an immediate upgrade from what Brandon Knight can offer this season.

Let’s face it, we all loved the Brandon Knight acquisition because we were finally able to get rid of the awful contract of Ryan Anderson. (Praise Morey!) But Brandon Knight is still trying to work his way back from nearly two years of not playing. It shows. Knight has played in six games this season, and the most points he has scored in any game this season is three. What is worse is that Knight currently has a -8.70 PER (Player Efficiency Rating). Granted, other players have a negative PER, but it is crazy that someone has a negative effect whenever they touch the floor. (Stats courtesy of ESPN.)

  1. Austin Rivers is already one of the better playmakers on the Rockets.

With Chris Paul out for the next 2-3 weeks, if you had to guess who the Rockets’ second-best playmaker was after Harden, who would you guess? (Go on, I’ll wait...) You might say Eric Gordon. The crazy thing is, Austin Rivers is averaging the same number of assists as Gordon. Gordon is a shooter and a scorer. There is nothing wrong with that; it’s why he got the contract he got. But with Chris Paul gone, you can’t run the MVP into the ground trying to create offense.

  1. Austin Rivers fits what the Rockets run.

Watch Austin Rivers’s highlights from his best season for the Los Angeles Clippers. The Rockets’ offense is all about three pointers, free throws, and lay-ups. You don’t see a lot of mid-range shots in those clips.

All in all, is Austin Rivers the signing that is going to fix the Rockets season? Probably not. But let’s take this at face value. Austin Rivers is 26 years old and is a productive NBA player. He has a skillset that lets him create his own offense, and he has a pretty decent shot. I really like this signing and can’t wait to see him (hopefully) on Christmas day against Russell Westbrook’s Thunder!

Rockets outlast Spurs in Texas two-step

With the way this 2018 season has started for the Rockets, it was no doubt in my mind that the Spurs would make a comeback late in the game on Saturday night. Missed 3’s, sloppy passes and suddenly this writer is pouring another glass of whiskey thinking, “Dear God, I have to write a story about these dude’s collapsing again? Great Christmas”. However, by the skin of their teeth, and much scoring from the MVP, the Rockets pulled away late to win 108-10.

Harden has had six straight games of at least 30 points while playing 40 plus minutes in 4 of those six games. To put this into perspective, Kobe had a run of 9 straight 30 point games in 2006-2007. Could you imagine the insanity if Harden does this for the next week or 2? Harden has completely carried this team even before the Chris Paul injury.

However, as much as we love watching the way Harden play this way, this isn’t a successful route to take playing a superstar. However, as of right now it’s working and even with the Austin Rivers signing, don’t expect James to take mins off for now. He will continue to play as much as D’Antoni and the team needs.

However, even with the win against the Spurs we must look at the entirety of the game and understand how it unfolded. This was a game that should have never come down to the last 2 minutes. This was a 14 point game to begin the 4th quarter and should have never gotten close, to begin with. In that aspect, some blame must be handed out for players who have not played well.

Eric Gordon continues to struggle from the 3 point line, and it doesn’t seem to this reporter that it is going to get better any sooner. Most will look and see the 4 3’s but taking 12 and 13 attempts the past two games has him looking desperately for his shot. Only shooting 30.2% from 3 this season is just unacceptable with the way Gordon played last season.

Gordon and this team collectively will have to continue to shoot even when cold, but at some point, these are going to have to go in for this team to stay afloat while Paul is nursing his hamstring injury.

With the addition of guard Austin Rivers on Sunday afternoon, GM Daryl Morey has no started to add NBA caliber pieces to this team. Moving forward look for Morey to use Brandon Knight or others plus draft picks to try and acquire key forwards and pieces. Look for the likes of Kent Bazemore and Caldwell Pope to be rumored to the Rockets within the next two weeks or so.

A win is a win, but this team’s killer instinct is not the same as last year. The way things are going this season, have some whiskey on hand and hope that they figure it out. If not, be prepared for headaches and yelling at the TV more often then not.

Who Have The Texans Beat

It’s that time of year again: time to play “WHO...HAVE...THEY...BEAT!”

Every season as the playoffs grow near, fans from every fan base start believing more in their franchise. Part of this holiday tradition is to look at other possible playoff teams and ask the question, “Who have they beat?” Let’s answer that question as we head into Week 16.

I’ve decided to look at the top contenders in the AFC to see who they have beaten, lost to or tied. Let the festivities begin!

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Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)

  • Signature Win: Week 1 in L.A. they knocked off the (11-3) Chargers 38-28
  • Other Wins vs teams .500 or better:

Week 2 - 42-37 at Pittsburgh (8-5-1)

Week 14 - 27-24 vs Baltimore (8-6)

  • Worst Lost: No losses to a team .500 or below
  • Other Losses:

Week 6 - 43-40 at New England (9-5)

Week 11 - 54-51 at Los Angeles Rams (11-3)

Week 15 - 29-28 vs Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Browns (6-7-1)

Broncos (6-8)

Broncos (6-8)

Bengals (6-8)

Jaguars (4-10)

49ers (4-10)

Cardinals (3-11)

Raiders (3-11)

Chiefs’ glass half-full: They haven’t lost to anyone with less than nine wins.

Chief’s glass half-empty: While they haven’t lost to anyone with a .500 record or worse, they are only 1-3 against teams with nine or more wins entering week 16.

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Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)

  • Signature Win: Week 14 in K.C. they knocked off the (11-3) Chiefs 29-28
  • Other Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 7 - 20-19 vs Tennessee (8-6)

Week 9 - 25-17 at Seattle (8-6)

Week 13 - 33-30 at Pittsburgh (8-5-1)

  • Worst Lost: Week 11 - 23-22 vs Broncos (6-8)
  • Other Losses:

Week 1 - 38-28 vs Kansas City (11-3)

Week 3 - 35-23 at Los Angeles Rams (11-3)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Browns (6-7-1)

Bengals (6-8)

Bills (4-9)

49ers (4-10)

Raiders (3-11)

Raiders (3-11)

Cardinals (3-11)

Chargers glass half-full: Second most wins in the AFC playoff race vs teams with a winning record.

Chargers glass half-empty: As with the Chiefs, 10 of their 11 wins have come against teams with 8 wins or fewer and are 1-2 (including a split with the Chiefs) when facing teams with more than 8 wins.

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Houston Texans (10-4)

  • Signature Win: Haven’t beaten a team with more than eight wins
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 4 - 37-34 at Indianapolis (8-6)

Week 5 - 19-16 vs Dallas (8-6)

Week 8 - 42-23 vs Miami (7-7)

Week 11 - 23-21 at Washington (7-7)

Week 12 - 34-17 vs Tennessee (8-6)

  • Worst Lost: Week 3 - 27-22 vs Giants (5-9)
  • Other Losses:

Week 1 - 27-20 at New England (9-5)

Week 2 - 20-17 at Tennessee (8-6)

Week 14 - 24-21 vs Indianapolis (8-6)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Browns (6-7-1)

Broncos (6-8)

Bills (5-9)

Jaguars (4-10)

Jets (4-10)

Texans glass half-full: Tied for the second most wins against teams that are .500 or better, in the AFC. Houston has lost by a total of 18 points in their four defeats, with totals of 7, 3, 5 and 3 points being the amount they have come up short in their four losses.

Texans glass half-empty: Haven’t not been tested with a tough schedule. Have only played one team with more than eight wins. That game was back in Week 1 in Foxboro and saw the now (9-5) Patriots win 27-20.

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New England Patriots (9-5)

  • Signature Win: Week 6 vs Kansas City (11-3), 43-40
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 1 - 27-20 vs Houston (10-4)

Week 4 - 38-7 vs Miami (7-7)

Week 5 - 38-24 vs Indianapolis (8-6)

Week 7 - 38-31 at Chicago (10-4)

Week 13 - 24-10 vs Minnesota (7-6-1)

  • Worst Loss: Week 2 - 31-20 at Jacksonville (4-10)
  • Other Losses:

Week 3 - 26-10 at Detroit (5-9)

Week 10 - 34-10 at Tennessee (8-6)

Week 14 - 34-33 at Miami (7-7)

Week 15 - 17-10 at Pittsburgh (8-5-1)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Packers (5-8-1)

Bills (5-9)

Jets (4-10)

Patriots glass half-full: Five wins against teams with a winning record. No other playoff contender has more than three such wins. New England also has three wins against teams who have won 10+ games, while no other AFC team has more than one.

Patriots glass half-empty: Patriots are 3-5 on the road this season and 6-0 at home. They are a bad road team, which shows in all five road losses coming to teams with eight or fewer wins. This is tied with the Dolphins for the most such losses.

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Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1)

  • Signature Win: Week 15 vs New England (9-5), 17-10
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 9 - 23-16 at Baltimore (8-6)

  • Worst Lost: Week 14 - 24-21 at Oakland (3-11)
  • Other Losses:

Week 1 - 21-21 TIE at Cleveland (6-7-1)

Week 2 - 42-37 vs Kansas City (11-3)

Week 4 - 26-14 vs Baltimore (8-6)

Week 12 - 24-17 at Denver (6-8)

Week 13 - 33-30 vs Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Browns (6-7-1)

Bengals (6-8)

Panthers (6-8)

Bucs (5-9)

Falcons (5-9)

Jaguars (4-10)

Steelers glass half-full: The early season loss to the Ravens was the only one for the Steelers this season by a margin greater than one possession.

Steelers glass half-empty: They’ve only beaten two teams all season that currently have eight or more wins, including a split with the Ravens. They are 2-3 in these games.

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Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

  • Signature Win: Haven’t beat a team with more than eight wins
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 4 - 26-14 at Pittsburgh (8-5-1)

Week 6 - 21-0 at Tennessee (8-6)

  • Worst Lost: Week 8 - 36-21 at Carolina (6-8)
  • Other Losses:

Week 2 - 34-23 at Cincinnati (6-8)

Week 5 - 12-9 at Cleveland (6-7-1)

Week 7 - 24-23 vs New Orleans (12-2)

Week 9 - 23-16 vs Pittsburgh (8-5-1)

Week 14 - 27-24 at Kansas City (11-3)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Bengals (6-8)

Broncos (6-8)

Bills (5-9)

Bucs (5-9)

Falcons (5-9)

Raiders (3-13)

Ravens glass half-full: Lost by a total of only four points to the 12-win Saints and 11-win Chiefs.

Ravens glass half-empty: As is the case with the Texans, the Ravens haven’t beaten a team with nine or more wins this season, and as is the case with the Steelers, Baltimore is 2-3 (including a split with Pittsburgh) when playing teams with eight or more wins this season.

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Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

  • Signature Win: Week 14 at Houston (10-4), 24-21
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 2 - 21-9 at Washington (7-7)

Week 11 - 38-10 vs Tennessee (8-6)

Week 12 - 27-24 vs Miami (7-7)

Week 15 - 23-0 vs Dallas (8-6)

  • Worst Lost: Week 6 - 42-34 at New York Jets (4-10)
  • Other Losses:

Week 1 - 34-23 vs Cincinnati (6-8)

Week 3 - 20-16 at Philadelphia (7-7)

Week 4 - 37-34 vs Houston (10-4)

Week 5 - 38-24 at New England (9-5)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Bengals (6-8)

Broncos (6-8)

Bills (5-9)

Bucs (5-9)

Falcons (5-9)

Raiders (3-13)

Colts glass half-full: Indianapolis is 4-0 in their last four games vs teams that are .500 or better.

Colt glass half-empty: The toughest competition that they have faced was the Texans (10-4) and the Patriots (9-5). They split with the Texans and lost to the Patriots. That goes along with two losses to 4-win teams, early on this season.

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Tennessee Titans (8-6)

  • Signature Win: Week 2 vs Houston (10-4), 20-17
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 4 - 26-23 vs Philly (7-7)

Week 9 - 28-14 at Dallas (8-6)

Week 10 - 34-10 vs New England (9-5)

  • Worst Lost: Week 5 - 13-12 at Buffalo (5-9)
  • Other Losses:

Week 1 - 27-20 at Miami (7-7)

Week 6 - 21-0 vs Baltimore (8-6)

Week 7 - 20-19 at Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)

Week 11 - 38-10 at Indianapolis (8-6)

Week 12 - 34-17 at Houston (10-4)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Giants (5-9)

Jets (4-10)

Jaguars (4-10)

Jaguars (4-10)

Titans glass half-full: One of only three AFC teams to have multiple wins over teams with nine or more wins.

Titans glass half-empty: Most likely playing for a wild card spot, which would mean a first-round road trip. Tennessee is 3-5 on the road this season. They have lost four of their last six games against teams that are currently in the hunt for the NFL playoffs.

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Miami Dolphins (7-7)

  • Signature Win: Week 6 vs Chicago (10-4), 31-28
  • Wins vs teams .500 or better

Week 1 - 27-20 vs Tennessee (8-6)

Week 14 - 34-33 vs New England (9-5)

  • Worst Lost: Week 7 - 32-21 vs Detroit (5-9)
  • Other Losses:

Week 4 - 38-7 at New England (9-5)

Week 5 - 27-17 at Cincinnati (6-8)

Week 8 - 42-23 at Houston (10-4)

Week 10 - 31-12 at Green Bay (5-8-1)

Week 12 - 27-24 at Indianapolis (8-6)

Week 15 - 41-17 at Minnesota (7-6-1)

  • Wins vs teams under .500:

Bills (5-9)

Jets (4-10)

Jets (4-10)

Raiders (3-11)

Dolphins glass half-full: Tied in the AFC with the Titans for the second most wins against teams with nine or more victories this season.

Dolphins glass half-empty: Miami has an equally awful loss to match each quality victory. They are 1-6 on the road this year.

You have your ammunition now; happy hunting!

The Real Difference between 2018 and 2012 Is Deshaun Watson

I’ve heard over the last few weeks that “These Texans aren’t as good as the 2012 Texans.” I decided to pull the stats for comparison’s sake. What I found was encouraging.

The Texans still need two more wins to match the 12-4 record from the 2012 season. Houston travels to Philadelphia this weekend to take on the reigning world champs. Nick Foles, the Texas high school star quarterback and the savior of the 2017 miraculous championship ride, is back in the saddle for the 7-7 Eagles. The Texans then finish out the season at home against the Jaguars.

When I dig into the stats, what really jumps out about 2018 is how the Texans are 30th in red zone and goal-to-go percent on defense this season. On the opposite side of the ball, the Texans are tied for 26th in red zone percent and tied for 27th in goal-to-go percent. These are troubling categories for this year’s club.

The rest of the numbers were intriguing, especially what Brad Seely is doing with the Texans special teams unit on both sides, in year one. After looking all of the columns over, I found it odd how similar the points per game were. Neither of these teams were “fluke” four-loss teams.

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The biggest difference between the 2012 and 2018 teams for the Houston franchise is at the most important position in all of sports, quarterback. While we can’t compare Matt Schaub’s 16 games from that season to Deshaun Watson’s 16 games for this season yet, the 14 games in the book do give us a large enough sample size for a fair comparison into who they were as quarterbacks during their team’s success and failures.

JBraddock 2018 vs 2012 table 2.png

*splits courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Deshaun Watson is built for this; but Matt Schaub was what Kirk Cousins is today. A Schaub or a Cousins will get the big contract because he can be a top 10 regular season fantasy quarterback, run the offense, and get you to the playoffs, if there is a strong enough team around him.

Watson elevates the team around him. He always has. Watson has shown in high school, college and the pros that he’s among the best of the best. He’s also shown that he can take his game to the next level whenever he needs to. Whether it’s the playoffs or a game the team needs on the road in Philadelphia in late December, the 2012 team didn’t have a big moment quarterback. Watson excels in the biggest moments; Schaub exacerbated those moments.

Saying the 2012 Texans team was/is better than the 2018 Texans team is the same as being the guy who said back in 1992, “Christian Laettner is a better fit on the Dream Team than Shaq.”

Houston Texans Playoff Scenarios

There are two weeks to go in the NFL regular season. The Houston Texans can clinch a playoff spot, the AFC South and/or a first round bye. The latter has never been accomplished by this franchise, which played its first season in 2002.

CLINCHES PLAYOFF SPOT

  1. Baltimore Ravens loss or tie; OR
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers loss; OR
  3. Tennessee Titans loss or tie + Houston clinches Strength of Victory tiebreaker over the Ravens

After starting 0-3 this season, the thought of any playoff berth would have been considered a positive. But now, after their historical turnaround, the Texans, their fans and the media would all consider it a colossal failure if the team slid into the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

CLINCHES AFC SOUTH

  1. Houston Texans win or tie; OR
  2. Indianapolis Colts loss or tie + Tennessee Titans loss or tie

The Texans are past the phase in franchise history where AFC South championships are celebrated. Sure, acknowledge the accolade after the season, but it doesn’t feel like the accomplishment it once was for the Texans.

By no means is that a knock on what the Texans have achieved. Actually, it’s a tip of the hat to a franchise finally getting over the 9-7 hurdle. No letterman’s jackets, no Albert Haynesworth or TJ Yates. This is real. This is a championship caliber team, but to reach that potential, they’ll need to seize every advantage.

CLINCHES FIRST ROUND BYE

  1. Houston Texans win + New England Patriots loss or tie; OR
  2. Houston Texans tie + New England Patriots loss

This is the ultimate regular season prize: a postseason bye week. By securing the bye, the Texans would also, obviously, play one game fewer in the playoffs, automatically jumping to the next round of the AFC playoffs.

While the Texans heal and watch their future opponent, they’ll do so at home. Their opponent would have to travel to Houston after playing an extra game to take on the rested Texans. Consider the advantage: Another week of rest and/or preparation for Lamar Miller, D’Onta Foreman, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Dunn, JJ Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, DeAndre Carter and any other newly acquired or promoted player who steps in due to a week 16 or 17 injury.

Prime-Time Watson

Lately I’ve been writing about Deshaun Watson and how he’s a different beast in big moments. Later I found some splits from ESPN, and they, too, point to Watson elevating his game when the pressure is at a breaking point for normal mortals. Here are more splits from Watson’s 2018 season through 15 weeks:

I previously mentioned Watson’s performances in back-to-back College Football Championship games against the vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide defense. In those two games he threw for 825 yards and 7 touchdowns to only 1 interception and tacked on 116 rushing yards and one touchdown. He’s a different creation.

Watson now has the Clemson Connection with DeAndre Hopkins, the NFL’s best wide receiver to throw to in big moments. This tandem will be at its peak over the next month and a half.

It’s not only the Super Bowl that is motivating them. Hopkins is on the cusp of doing something that hasn’t been done since 2014. That was the year Antonio Brown had 129 receptions for 1,698 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, leading the AFC in all three categories. That’s known as the Triple Crown for wide receivers.

Hopkins is in the running for the AFC wide receiver Triple Crown this season. There are three wide receivers in the AFC who have a shot with two games to go:

JBraddock Houston Texans Playoff Scenarios chart 1.png

DeAndre Hopkins recorded career highs in receptions and yards in 2015 with 111 receptions for 1,521 yards. His career high in receiving touchdowns came last season when he hauled in 13. To set career highs in all three categories, he’ll need to catch 18 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns over the next two games.

Whether he reaches the Triple Crown or not, people are already noticing that DeAndre Hopkins is not one of the best receivers in the NFL; he is, in fact, the top receiver in the game. Matt Harmon of Yahoo Sports tweeted these impressive numbers on the sixth-year playmaker:

Hopkins and Watson are the best young quarterback-receiver tandem in the NFL. Watson plays his best in the biggest of moments. The more highly-contested windows in the postseason are a non-issue for Hopkins, as this is where he excels.

This Texans team has a lot to play for over the next two weeks; a Wild Card spot or the AFC South crown will not feed the appetite of this city and this team. The coming matchup with the Eagles is no regular Week 16 game; it’s an elimination game, and the Texans have to play with an elimination mindset.

If the Texans beat the Eagles, they’ll only have a Jaguars team standing in front of them and a berth into the second round of the AFC playoffs. A win would ensure that the Texans wouldn’t leave the city of Houston until the AFC Championship game, at the earliest.

It’s Christmas time in Houston, and if you’re still not convinced that the Clemson Connection has all of your Holiday needs taken care of, take solace in knowing the Houston sports gods received an extra sacrifice just in time to ensure victory in this game. I had thought the injuries to Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Lance McCullers and others, along with the Astros sacrificing back-to-back titles, would be enough to appease them, but apparently they required Chris Paul’s hamstring ... again.

It’s the way things work down here. We aren’t allowed to have everything go right. The price has to be paid. Watson gave up another ACL for the Astros last year, so it’s only fair that Chris Paul would sacrifice his hamstring for the Texans. Better now than in Game 6! D’oh, still too soon.

Where's the Buzz in Houston?

The Houston Texans just won their 10th game of the season and have a chance to secure a bye week in their next two games, but there is little to no buzz around the city. More than likely you have heard someone attempt to convince you to enjoy this season, a season that includes a nine-game win streak and 10 wins out of 11 games. On paper, it’s hard to understand why any Houstonian needs convincing to enjoy the ride. Houston hasn't seen this much success since its playoff runs in 2011 and 2012; so why does it seem like there was a bigger buzz during those years than this season?

2011 Houston Texans Season

A season that almost didn’t happen due to a NFL lockout in negotiations of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, 2011 was Gary Kubiak’s do-or-die season. In 2010 it seemed like his regime had bottomed out, going 6-10 for the season. It took virtually everyone in Houston by surprise when Bob McNair chose to keep him the following year. The unpopular move made sense: offense was never a problem under Kubiak’s regime, but after having the worst defense in the league, it was time for an established defensive coordinator. In came Wade Phillips, and he proved to be the difference in turning the Texans into a playoff team.

Kubiak, entering his sixth season, could not afford to have a rough start, especially when he had spent five years with the team but still had never achieved a playoff berth. In this 2011 season he had every reason to collapse under such immense pressure; and Arian Foster, the 2010 league leading rusher in yards, being out for the first three games of the season didn’t help either.

This was just the beginning of a season where the Texans embraced the phrase “next man up.” Andre Johnson would be out several weeks after suffering a non-contact hamstring injury in a scary scene against the defending AFC Champ Pittsburgh Steelers. Mario Williams seemed to be reborn under Wade Phillips’s system, but suffered a season-ending injury in Week 5 against Oakland. Most notably, Houston lost its starting quarterback Matt Schaub; this happened in the middle of a hot four-game win streak that destroyed opponents like the Titans (41-7), Jacksonville (24-14), Cleveland (30-12), and Tampa Bay (37-9).

Houston was erupting with passion for the Texans, who were having their most successful season at 7-3 despite all the injuries to its biggest of stars and core players. When TJ Yates led the team to its eighth victory, optimism was restored, and Texans fans were thinking why not us and why not TJ Yates? The buzz only grew when TJ led the Texans to victory against an Atlanta Falcons team that was 7-4 and winners of five of their last six. When the winning streak continued on the road in December in Cincinnati, clinching the division and a playoff berth, the city’s enthusiasm was at an all-time high. A franchise that had never been to the playoffs, that dealt with injuries to their best running back, their best wide receiver, their best pass rusher, and their best quarterback, didn’t make excuses. Instead the Texans rose to the challenge and earned their first division championship and playoff berth, and had the city believing in the possibility of a Super Bowl berth with a 5th round, 3rd string quarterback.

2012 Houston Texans Season

After losing to the Ravens in the Divisional Round by just 7 points, Houston maintained its buzz, and any skepticism about Kubiak’s future was in the rear-view mirror. The Texans would enter the season losing two of their best offensive linemen and losing Mario Williams to a big pay day. But they regained their starting quarterback that many believe would have taken them all the way the previous year. The Texans would have their best start in Franchise History, going 5-0 with games that included the eventual comeback player of the year Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. Houston Fans were now beating their chests as they saw their team carrying on just as they had been before Schaub’s injury.

New fans had jumped on board during the Texans’ first playoff run, but the bandwagon really blew up on this 2012 run. In 2011, Sonic restaurants had run a promotion that offered customers a free Slush if the Texans scored on the first drive of the second half. In 2012, the offer was applied to any Texans win, creating a whole new fan experience. There are still places in Houston that offer freebies for Texans victories, but none blew up like the Sonic offer. It was the Great Texans Slushes Epidemic, with lines that spilled into the street; demand was so high that employees brought out carts of Slushes just to get the line moving. If you happened to drive by a Sonic on a Tuesday, it was rare to find one without heavy traffic.

Texan fans were excited about their team dominating the league, with wins against Peyton Manning, a dismantling of the eventual Super Bowl Champs Ravens, a cold and muddy slugfest with the one-loss Bears in primetime, back-to-back overtime victories that included a thanksgiving comeback against the Lions … I could go on, but I digress. A hype song for the season, Texans superfan Dre Ladon recorded a hype song for 2011 and made a new song for 2012 titled “H Up 4 Dem Texans.” It featured an Antonio Smith cameo, along with Rich Lord of Sports Radio 610 and Josh Innes in a generic Texans jersey.

When the city buzzes as loud as Houston was, Houston Legends will take notice. Slim Thug, Paul Wall, and Z-RO teamed up with Director Michael Artis to make another Texans Hype song called “Houston.” The video included Texans players such as JJ Watt, Arian Foster, Brian Cushing, and Duane Brown. If you haven’t heard it before, shame on you; if you have, it brings back the nostalgic memories of the Houston feeling like our appetite for a championship would be fulfilled.

2018 Houston Texans Season

Here we are in 2018, a season that now claims the franchise’s longest win streak under head coach Bill Obrien. It’s our fourth winning season in five years, but there is a clear difference in the city’s reaction to its wins. On paper, seeing the Texans 10-4 with a chance to clinch a bye, with Deshaun Watson as your Quarterback, JJ Watt back to his defensive MVP form, Deandre Hopkins looking like the best wide receiver in the game, we should feel like this championship is ours to lose. As the Texans take it one game at a time, so have we seen it as one game at a time, and although the results say W, reactions of fans are as harsh as if it were an L. Week after week, we have heard the classic “A win is a win,” or “It may have been ugly, but at least we got the W.” I get it, no team is perfect, but these quotes should be an anomaly during a successful season. Instead, they have been the theme of the entire season.

A season that started 0-3 to turn around and go 10-4 shouldn’t find any fan needing to be convinced to enjoy the ride. It’s understandable if you feel that way, if you feel that this entire season has been a “Muppets Meme” saying “This ain’t it, chief.” You don’t have to force yourself to think otherwise; if you feel that is urine hitting your back, don’t let anyone else convince you it is rain. But this team has the potential to be where they belong, in Deshaun Watson’s hometown Atlanta Georgia, in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in February. The Texans have all the right ingredients to be the last one standing this year; it’s up to the chef to know how to prepare it.

Harden Shines as Rockets Dominate Jazz

There’s a special place in basketball history for players who excel more every night and never stop improving. The Rockets defeated the Jazz last night 102-97 in a game that had techs, ghost foul calls and travels. (Yes, travels, Houston Twitter.) By the end of it all, the best player on this team, and maybe the second best in its franchise history, showed that he has become every bit the player we thought he would.

James Harden scored 47 points while grabbing 6 rebounds, dishing out 6 assists. He also had five steals, just to add to the pure insanity of how great of a player this man has become. Last night he joined the company of Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler as the only players to have three or more games of 45-5-5-5. With Michael doing it 10 times and Clyde doing it four times, you can expect to see James move past Clyde and possibly catch the GOAT in a stat that’s beyond description.

But besides the sweet greatness of James Harden, this game had a sour taste that has lingered throughout the early season: what in God’s name is wrong with Chris Paul and Eric Gordon?

EG and CP3 combined for 23 points last night on 7-23 shooting. That’s unacceptable from two players that need to stand and be counted every single night. Granted, if this had just been one bad night from EG and CP3, you could chalk it up and move on. However, these two have not lived up to last season’s form.

Most believe that CP3 is hurt or suffers tendinitis in his shooting elbow. Whether or not he is injured, he needs to play significantly better for this Rockets team to have any shot or prayer at competing in May and hopefully June.

And I have no idea what has happened to Eric Gordon’s shot. We already knew that he was a streaky shooter, but even dating back to last year, he had never been this inconsistent or terrible shooting the three. With his recent comments to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko, it’s clear that EG is not the same player that he was last year. Shooting 29% from three-point range this year won’t cut it, and Daryl Morey knows it.

It was a solid win at home but in the end, there is room for improvement for two of the four best players on this team. They will need to step up before the voices become louder and the challenge becomes harder.

All stats courtesy of NBA Advanced Stats

My Best Movies of 2018

‘I just wanted to take another look at you.’

Another year is coming to a close, with lots of excitement as we head into the big holiday. The movie scene was electric this year, with huge movies and gigantic box office numbers. I am going to list out some of my favorite movies from this year.

In no particular order:

  • Black Panther

Black Panther showed the world the possibility of diversity in a superhero movie, and how not all heroes look the same. It also presented us with a great villain: Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Killmonger will go down in the archives of superhero movie history next to Heath Ledger’s Joker.

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  • Incredibles 2

Welcome back, Incredibles! After a 14-year hiatus, the superhero family we love came back with a vengeance. This movie had something for everyone, but for me, the highlight was Jack-Jack vs. the Raccoon.

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  • A Star is Born

The amount of pressure on this remake was immeasurable; however, Bradley Cooper delivered one of the best moves of the year as a director and actor. And the movie vaulted Lady Gaga into another stratosphere.

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  • Crazy Rich Asians

Surprise hit of the year. Another movie showing us that we don’t need all the movies to look the same with the same actors. The all-Asian and Asian-American cast proved to be a huge box office success. And for my wife and I, it was the best date night movie of the year.

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  • Creed II

The Rocky Saga continues. Capping off his incredible year, Michael B. Jordan returned to his Adonis Creed role and delivered a knockout. Pardon the cheese, but in all seriousness, this was a great sequel to the 2015 hit. Here is my full review.

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  • Mission Impossible: Fallout

Death, Taxes, and Mission Impossible movies: All things that are certain in my life. This installment delivered yet again; actually, all the Mission Impossible movies have delivered, minus number 2. One particular standout scene: the now mustached Superman, Henry Cavill, cocks his arms in a bathroom fight scene. (Psst! The photo credit below goes to the scene; enjoy!)

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  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Still fresh in my head, Spider-Man might be the best movie I saw all year. My full review was delivered early this week.

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  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

As a child of the 70s and 80s, few people (if any) have had a bigger impact on my television life than Mister Rogers. He was there for us every morning, comforting us, teaching us, and helping us with his wonderful characters and soothing voice. This documentary is a must-see if you are in my age range; it reminds us how things were and how they could be again if people cared the way Fred Rogers cared.

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  • Blindspotting

A sleeper movie to make my list. It was still fresh in my head when I stumbled on a copy of it a few weeks ago. Here is my full write-up on this must-see independent movie.

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  • Avengers: Infinity War

In just one snap, our Marvel Cinematic Universe was spent spiraling. Infinity War brought all the people to the movies. And as we left, we all had the same response: what happens now? See you in March when we start to get some answers with Captain Marvel.

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Those are the big 10 that stick out in my mind, out of the countless movies I’ve watched this year. I spent too much money to remember at the theater on myself and my family. The two-plus hours we spend each week in the dark and silence are really worth it; my kids jump up and get ready the fastest for movie day. My wife is able to detach from her incredible work load for those few hours as well. We continue to talk about the movie as we leave, and about when we might get to re-watch it. I hope as you head into the New Year that you make 2019 your best year. I am honored to write my little reviews each week for you; it is fulfilling a dream of mine. Since this is my last article of 2018, I thought it would be best to leave you with a quote from the great Fred Rogers:

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Thanks, Fred, for being a hero.

WWE Top Five: Dec. 10-16

Honorable Mentions

The Bar: The Smackdown Live Tag Team Champions came out on top in an entertaining segment on Smackdown and also retained their championships this past Sunday. They have been having a nice run lately; let’s see if it continues.

Zack Gibson and James Drake: The first NXT UK superstars to make the honorable mentions are the young team of Zack Gibson and James Drake. The got a great win against Amir Jordan and Kenny Williams, then made it clear that Mustache Mountain is not the only team keeping their eyes on the new NXT UK Tag Team titles. Keep your eyes on these two.

The List

#5 Ricochet: The NXT North American Champion issued an open challenge that was answered by the main roster’s Tyler Breeze, and they put on a hell of a match. Ricochet is becoming one of the highlights of NXT. He hasn’t put on a bad match yet, and this was no exception. Breeze also had a great showing, but it wasn’t enough to dethrone Ricochet.

#4 Ronda Rousey: The Raw Women’s Champion put on a good show against her opponent at TLC. She sold Nia’s moves well and helped make her look like a monster. Then her comeback was even better, as she showed how much she has improved in the ring. Rousey deserves Rookie of the Year.

#3 Buddy Murphy: The Cruiserweight Champion is above Rousey because of his two fantastic outings. He took on Gran Metalik in a good match, then outdid himself by looking even better at TLC in a victory against Cedric Alexander. He is showing that he can lead 205 Live as the champion.

#2 Daniel Bryan: The WWE Champion dropped a spot, but not because of any failure on his part. He had a good showing against Mustafa Ali and was able to outsmart his challenger AJ Styles in their match on Sunday. He only drops because someone had an even better week.

#1 Asuka: And boy, did she have a hell of a week. She blasted both Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair with a kendo stick to end Smackdown this week, then capped off her week by winning the Smackdown Women’s Championship with an assist from Ronda Rousey. Don’t hold that against her though, as she held her own in the TLC match. How will she begin this reign of hers? We will just have to wait and see.

This week’s Top Five had quite a few changes, but after some amazing performances, I think I got my rankings right. Come back next week to see the top performers of WWE.

Astros Back Into the J.T. Realmuto Picture After Signing Brantley?

If you are an Astros fan, you should be beaming with joy after Jeff Luhnow signed outfielder Michael Brantley. This was a move that Luhnow and the Astros were practicing patience. After the Andrew McCutchen deal, it set the market to sign an outfielder like Brantley. Instead of jumping the gun, Luhnow waited patiently for Brantley to settle for two-years.

Now Kyle Tucker loses his starting gig in left field for now unless the Astros plan on trading Josh Reddick. After signing a $52 million 4-year deal with the Astros back in 2017, he is still owed $26 million for the next two years. His offense took a step back in 2018, but he is still the starting right fielder. The team could look to trade him.

Brantley can play some first base, but he will only get spot starts over there. This leaves no place for Tucker to play for the next two seasons when all the current starters will become free agents. Where does Tucker play? He could become the 4th or 5th outfielder, but where does Tony Kemp or Jake Marisnick fit? Plus, do you want your young star coming off the bench his first full season?

Change of heart?

After saying for a while that they would not trade Kyle Tucker, could they have changed their mind? While they have all the faith in the world in Tucker, saying he could still compete for an outfield spot in 2019 if they signed a veteran player. Technically, he could beat out Reddick for the starting gig, but that would be a lot to pay for a fourth outfielder. However, you want to put your best bats out there.

The depth in the outfield is now massive. Technically, someone can split time with Tyler White in the DH spot. That would change if they did sign Nelson Cruz as well. They still have a hole in the rotation and possibly like to add a starting catcher to the mix. Someone who makes sense is Marlins catcher, J.T. Realmuto. He had made sense for a few years now, but there has been a sticking point.

The sticking point has been the Marlins desire to get Tucker. As I said on Talking Stros, Realmuto would be an Astro if they would have given up Tucker. Bringing in a hometown-ish type player who could be a superstar would reinvigorate baseball in Miami. Should the Astros sign another bat soon, such as Cruz or the long shot of Bryce Harper, then Tucker becomes available.

It does not make sense to trade seven years of Tucker for two years of Realmuto, but he is a special player. He is an excellent catcher ho can hit for power and average. The Astros could also ask for the 72-hour negotiation window to work out an extension.

Extending Realmuto would offset the loss of Tucker.

It would take more than just Tucker to get the deal done, but not any other top 10 prospects. The Marlins have been asking for the sky. Luhnow has been patient so far, but soon we may see how much he wants to add Realmuto. Joe Frisaro just reported that the Astros were still in on Realmuto. Craig Mish gives them a 5% chance of trading for Realmuto.

The main reason to not trade Tucker is that all of the starting outfielders would be free agents after 2020. Maybe they can work around trading Tucker. Maybe a deal doesn’t get done at all, and the Astros use Robinson Chirinos and Max Stassi. By signing Chirinos, the Marlins can't hold the desperation card over the Astros head.

Bregman seemed excited about some big news coming soon. Could it be a Realmuto trade? Could it be them signing Bryce Harper? Maybe they are finally going to get a new starting pitcher. Maybe Bregman wasn’t talking about a new player at all. There are still a few moves out there to be made.

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Talking Stros 2018-10-21 - Astros postseason reflection

The boys at Talking Stros discuss the end of the postseason dreams for the Astros who will retool and gear up for 2019.

8:00 - What went wrong during the Boston series?

8:15 – Injuries update Altuve, Correa, McCullers

8:30 – Looking back at the 2018 season

8:45 – Jeremy Booth (Views from the former scout and front office executive)

9:00 – What’s next for 2019? (Free agents, trades, needs for the team)

9:15 - The outfield picture for next year

9:30 – Kyle Kelly (free agency)

9:45 – Closing thoughts

October NBA Storylines

Up until last year, the NBA season normally tipped off at the end of October.

Then superstars like LeBron James cried for more rest and less back-to-back games, so, fortunately for us NBA fans, we are now a solid two weeks into the season. If you’ve been distracted by football or were one of the few people to watch the World Series, sure, you only missed two weeks of the NBA season. However, we’re talking about the most dramatic league in all of sports, so if you’re behind, you have ALREADY MISSED TWO WEEKS OF THE NBA SEASON! Allow me to express my thoughts, concerns, and summaries of my favorite storylines (in no order) that have already occurred in literally just 14 days.

Jimmy Butler Trade Talks

I am not one to necessarily buy into trade rumors, because most of the time they either don’t end up happening or take a significant amount of time for the trigger to finally be pulled. Then last year, Kyrie Irving was traded almost immediately after reports came out that he requested to move teams, and Eric Bledsoe was dealt with the Bucks less than a month after tweeting “I don't wanna be here.” It’s a new age in basketball and certainly a player’s league. Mix Butler’s trade request with the hometown Houston Rockets at the top of the mix, and you’ve got me bought into the most intriguing story of the year so far. Will, the Rockets, give up four first-round draft picks for him? Will Butler commit to signing with Houston long-term instead of coming on a rental? Is Eric Gordon part of this deal? Either way, Daryl Morey has a short leash, and if this team keeps struggling, he’s going to make this deal happen one way or the other.

Chris Paul vs. Rajon Rondo

Less than one week into the season, on LeBron James’ first home game, on primetime television, we received our first fight of the year. These two guards have been going at it for ten years now, and they each finally got some licks in. A few thoughts on this mini Saturday Night rumble:

- What in the world was going on in Brandon Ingram’s head?

- Chris Paul has a ridiculous amount of patience. 99% of the male population is doing much more after being spit on than poking that person in the face. He should’ve swung on the spot.

- Both players landed blows. It was a decent and fun fight that was obviously broken up quickly.

- Really, what in the world was going on in Brandon Ingram’s head?

Ingram was suspended for four games, Rondo for three, and Paul for two. These amounts were low in comparison to past similar altercations, and I love that. The NBA needs a little more toughness back in the league.

The Offense Explosion

We all know the game of basketball is constantly evolving, and this is the era of analytics. We are seeing more three-pointers attempted than ever, and it will continue to rise every year. The NBA League average for points scored per game so far is six points higher than last year and the highest it’s been since the 1970-71 season. If you’re a bettor, take the over until Vegas catches up. Here are some mind-blowing scores that have already happened in the first two weeks of the season:

- October 19th: New Orleans Pelicans 149, Sacramento Kings 129

- October 20th: Dallas Mavericks 140, Minnesota Timberwolves 136

- October 22nd: San Antonio Spurs 143, Los Angeles Lakers 142

- October 24th: Golden State Warriors 144, Washington Wizards 122

- October 29th: Golden State Warriors 149, Chicago Bulls 124

You can take these final scores whatever way you’d like - higher efficiency, continued use of analytics, lack of defense, etc. The bottom line is that last season, a team scored 140 points in a game a total of 13 times. This year, it’s already happened six times before the calendar hits November.

Klay Thompson’s Record-Setting Night

Speaking of offense, Klay Thompson got hot. On October 29th, the sharpshooter broke his teammates’ record with 14 threes made in a game. Yes, 14 threes off 24 attempts for 58%. He scored 52 points on the night in only 27 minutes. That’s absurd. Before this night, he was shooting 13.8% on 5-36 from beyond the arc. After this one night of 14-24, he is now shooting 31.7% on the season. It’s safe to say that he is no longer in a slump. And my favorite stat of the entire night, which is by far the number one reason why he will never choose to be the number one guy somewhere: he dribbled the ball NINE total times!

Tyronn Lue – First Coach Fired

After LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010, the Cavaliers finished the following season 19-63. Did Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers’ front office expect something different this time around? Yes, the Cavs are off to a 0-6 start, but why not just let him go before the season even started? I truly want to know if he failed to meet expectations in their eyes. However, hey, at least it happened only six games in. He would’ve been on his way to tarnishing his 128-83 record, Finals Championship, and appearances in the Finals each of his three years coaching. Technically, you could say he dodged a bullet.

Rockets 2015-16 Deja Vu?

Does anybody else feel this vibe so far? The Houston Rockets are off to an awful 1-5 start, which is their worst since the 2015-16 season. Houston is fresh off a Western Conference Finals appearance loss to the Golden State Warriors, the same situation as in their 2015-16 season. The Golden State Warriors are off to a ridiculous start with their leader, Stephen Curry, looking as if he is trying to match his unanimous MVP year, which occurred in the 2015-16 season. The Rockets’ entire identity and the theme this year is to “Run It Back,” which clearly implies bringing back essentially the same team. However, Daryl Morey’s leash will always be short, and if the losing continues, he will do whatever it takes to get Jimmy Butler. This is pretty similar to when he fired Kevin McHale after starting the year 4-7 in, that’s right, the 2015-16 season.

However, wait, there’s more

All that so far in 14 days. That goes without mentioning the new-look Lakers, the Milwaukee Bucks starting out 7-0, Blake Griffin looking like a point guard and dropping 50 points in Detroit, Kawhi Leonard looking like his old normal self up in Canada, Joel Embiid continuing to troll whoever gets in front of him, and much more. This is the most entertaining league in all of sports.

If only we didn’t already know who’s going to win the championship…

All stats via Basketball-Reference.com & NBA.com

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