David Sanchez

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A Texans Super Bowl Berth Could Be as Soon as This Year

Many don’t believe that the Houston Texans, winners of eight straight, are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. They have faced a slew of feeble opponents, but the Texans can’t help but to play against whoever is in front of them. The real knock on the Texans’ franchise record eight–game win-streak is how they handled their opponents. It was not until Monday Night against the Tennessee Titans that the Texans handled an opponent that has been struggling this season like a Super Bowl contender should.

As it stands in the AFC playoff race, the Houston Texans actually have the second highest strength of victory, defeating opponents with an average .461-win percentage. The highest strength of victory for the AFC is the #2 seed New England Patriots who have a .540-win-percentage amongst opponents defeated. Houston, who currently has the same win-loss record as New England, is in third due to the tie-breaker. However, with the easiest schedule remaining, the Texans have a real chance at earning a bye-week, and possibly home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Texans are the only team trending upwards. If last Monday night’s game is any indication, maybe the offense might be catching up to what the defense has been producing all year long, and the Texans will be the scariest team in the playoffs.

One question we should ask is, who are the Texans’ biggest threats going into the playoffs? We can start with one of the AFC’s big powerhouse names, the (7-3-1) Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers had been dealing with Le’Veon Bell’s drama all year long, but with the early success of James Conner, Pittsburgh had been steam-rolling through opponents. During the blowout game against the Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh defeated Carolina 52-21, and James Conner suffered a concussion. He was available the next game against the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars, but it took late game heroics from Ben Roethlisberger to stretch their win streak to 6. It is clear that James Conner is an important piece to this offense after his struggles in Jacksonville in what easily could have been a loss; he struggled again in Denver and the Steelers eventually fell to the 5-6 Broncos.

New England is having issues this year; they haven’t been the dominating juggernaut that we have been accustomed to seeing in years past. The aging Tom Brady is having an underwhelming season for New England standards. The Patriots rank 7th in offense. Red flags fly with this team after losses to the Lions, the Jags, and most recently to the Titans have this team as vulnerable as ever. Now that their former defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, left to be head coach of Detroit, their defense is a middle of the road.

The hottest team in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs, has been on fire throughout the year led by second-year QB Pat Mahomes, in essentially his first full year starting. This hot team is due for a slump, and no better time than now, with TMZ releasing footage of Kareem Hunt in an altercation with a female. The Chiefs just announced they have released the Pro Bowl running back and will have Spencer Ware replace him as the starter. It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs will fare offensively without Kareem who is currently fifth in rushing. Kareem was a big part of Kansas City’s potent 2nd-ranked offense, and it could expose the Chiefs’ biggest weakness, their 28th ranked defense.

With the AFC being this vulnerable, it is up to Houston to take advantage and utilize the most talented roster of the AFC and possibly the NFL. The recent passing of Houston Texans Owner Bob McNair inspired the Texans’ best victory so far this season, and may now possibly result in the first Super Bowl berth in Houston history.

An Epic AFC South Race

Don’t look now Houston Texans, but in the midst of an eight-game winning streak, there is a team from Indianapolis who is breathing down your neck. The Colts are on a winning streak themselves; they currently have strung together five wins in a row. The last time these two teams met, the Head Coach of Indy, Frank Reich, made the controversial call of going for it on 4th down in overtime with 27 seconds on the clock on their own 43-yard line.

When they failed to convert on the 4th down play, Deshaun Watson threw a 24-yard pass to Deandre Hopkins and spiked it to stop the clock with 4 seconds left. This action set up a 37-yard field goal to win the game for Houston and sparked a 7-game win-streak. Frank Reiche was clear to say when he decided not to punt, "We're not playing to tie We're going for that 10 times out of 10. That (play) has just got to work.”

To Frank’s credit, you play to win the game. If there are 24 seconds left and you only need three yards to convert and stop the clock to try to win against a division rival that most likely will be your biggest threat to win the division title, you take the chance 10 out of 10 times. He tried, and it didn’t work out. The Texans benefitted from it, and now with Houston and Indy being the two hottest teams in the division, there is even greater pressure to keep a streak going.

Don’t let the Colts 5-5 record fool you, their 5 losses were a difference of 7.6 points per game, just a one score difference. Their five wins, on the other hand, are a different story. They have been on fire, defeating teams by an average of 15 points. Andrew Luck is again looking like the number 1 pick in 2012, having a remarkable year throwing over 2,700 yds with 29 TDs and only 9 INTs through 11 weeks.

These two streaking teams make for a great Divisional race like we haven’t seen since 2012, Andrew Luck’s rookie year. It was also the year in which the Texans had their best stretch in franchise history, going 11-1 through the first 12 games. This AFC South Race will end in an epic battle to the top, with no team having any room to stumble.

Despite Rough Start, Rockets Not Far From Glory

So much has happened between Game 7 of the Western Conference finals last year, and 20 games into this season.

The 2017 Rockets were hot out the gates; it was Chris Paul’s first season with the team. The narrative around the country was that two ball dominant players couldn’t coincide. A franchise high 62 wins later, and a 7-game series with the heavy favorite Golden State Warriors proved otherwise. During the offseason Daryl Morey had waited patiently in his attempt to sign Carmelo Anthony, he waited for Oklahoma City to trade to Atlanta so that the Hawks could buy him out. When it was all said and done Carmelo was finally a Rocket.

The beginning of the season was a rough stretch as they were trying to figure out how to keep Carmelo happy while having him come off the bench. To Carmelo’s credit, he never complained and would do anything D’antoni asked of him as long as it would benefit the team. It was clear that Carmelo wasn’t going to fit when the offense was running stagnant, and the defense was falling at a rapid pace. None of which was Carmelo’s fault, it just wasn’t fair to Carmelo for him to try to figure out how to be in the mix while the Rockets were trying to figure themselves out. After announcing that Carmelo would miss a game due to illness, which eventually became Carmelo not playing for the team, Houston had gone on to win five games in a row, but have since fallen to a three-game losing streak.

This is not the franchise-win setting team it was last year, but this has been an upside-down season for the NBA overall. Houston is Currently seeded at 13 in the Western Conference with a 9-10 record, far from their #1 overall seed they had finished with last year. Several teams in the West are not even in the top 8 that were succeeding last year. Donavon Mitchell and the Utah Jazz, Anthony Davis and the Pelicans, Karl Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves, and even Demar DeRozan and the Spurs are all on the outside looking in, have the playoffs begin today. This Bizzaro-NBA also currently holds no other than the Los Angeles Clippers currently at the one seed with a 13-6 record.

Football season is still in action so the city hasn’t flipped over its team's lackluster start if in case you were, you shouldn’t be. Houston, although sitting in 13th place in the West, are only 4.5 games back from first, having plenty of time to get the issues corrected and placed where they truly belong. With Golden State having problems with Kevin Durant and Draymond Green butting heads, the time to strike is now.

It was just announced that Demarcus Cousins might suit up for the Warriors around Christmas according to Logan Murdock of The Mercury News. Cousins may just cause the NBA world to implode, or it may be another Carmelo situation and not be a great fit. Jeff Bzdelik returning to Houston as a defensive assistant will really help this team get back to form that had this team 1 game away from the Finals last year.

Texans: A win is A win (for the Seventh time)

The Houston Texans, as it sits right now, is on the second-longest win-streak currently entering Week 12 of the NFL season.

The longest win-streak belongs to the New Orleans Saints, with nine in a row after starting the Season 0-1, losing to Fitzpatrick and the Bucs.

The Saints high-flying offense and new-found defense with the addition of Eli Apple has New Orleans on everybody’s radar as the NFL’s elite. That leaves the question; Why are the Texans overlooked as a serious contender? The answer may be found through context.

Houston extended Bill O’Brien’s contract after a 4-12 season because they saw the potential in the six games that Deshaun Watson started for Houston under O'Brien in 2017. Watson's season was short lived after tearing his ACL during practice after an epic week eight showdown throwing for 402 yds and 4 TD's against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.

After having the rest of the regular season and offseason to rehab, the city was in full-hype mode anticipating Watson’s return. If I were to tell you last year, that in 2018, the Texans would be on a 7-game win streak going into Week 12, with a healthy Deshaun Watson, and a healthy defense, the city would erupt.

In 2018 witnessing game after game, win after win there is a lethargic feeling amongst the fans. The Houston Texans, after finishing at the bottom of their division last year, was handed the easiest strength of schedule according to cbssports.com. The ranking of the schedule is based on last year’s opponent’s record.

Usually, some teams improve, discrediting the offseason rankings, but as it stands, the Texans schedule remains the easiest, and with such teams as Jacksonville and Philadelphia both struggling, the schedule has become easier. I understand the Texans can’t help but play the schedule that was handed to them, but Bill O'Brien and the Texans continue to muster just enough to get a win as if it were like pulling teeth.

It has been 11 weeks, and we have yet to see the Deshaun Watson that enabled Bill O'Brien to receive a contract extension. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Texans currently Rank 16th in total offense and 19th in passing. With an offense that anemic, it would be understandable that the team would be struggling in today’s NFL. With the heroics of Romeo Crennel’s 6th rank Defense, the Texans manage to win, despite the offense not being able to take the opportunity to close out games. With all eyes on teams such as the Saints, Rams, Chiefs, Steelers and even Chicago, the Texans are an inconspicuous blur in the crowd of NFL teams that have yielded their fate of the 2018 NFL season.

Carmelo Anthony’s time with the Houston Rockets coming to a close

According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets and forward Carmelo Anthony will be parting ways at some point this season.

The 10x All-Star, who didn’t fit as a starter in OKC, couldn't adjust coming off the bench in Houston. Although Anthony accepted the role Rockets head coach, Mike D’Antoni had given him all season, the play on the court showed he was never comfortable with coming off the bench. His last game in OKC he shot 1-for-11 for only two points and missed the last three games due to an illness. Skeptics felt that when the team issued a statement of Melo being ill was just a cover-up so Houston can allow Melo to look for other teams that were interested in his talents.

Carmelo was unfairly criticized as the problem with Houston in a very disappointing season so far. The Rockets who came off one of their greatest seasons last year winning 62 games and challenging the Warriors to a 7-game contest in the Western Conference finals are currently 6-7 on the season. They reached out to Jeff Bzdelik to get him out of retirement when the defense was as bad, if not worse, than in 2016 when the Rockets were the butt end of the joke on defense leading to Harden GIFs all over social media on his abysmal style of defense. By no means was the arrival of Carmelo the cause of this bad play on both sides of the ball, when every Rocket on the team was struggling.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey released a statement to discuss the reasoning for the soon to be departed forward.

“After much internal discussion, the Rockets will be parting ways with Carmelo Anthony and we are working toward a resolution,” said Morey. “Carmelo had a tremendous approach during his time with the Rockets and accepted every role head coach Mike D’Antoni gave him. The fit we envisioned when Carmelo chose to sign with the Rockets has not materialized, therefore we thought it was best to move on as any other outcome would have been unfair to him.”

Anthony, now age 35, will now be on the look for his fourth team, fifth if we count the few memorable days with Atlanta, in just the last three years. Hopefully, he can find a team that will utilize his talents to be a key piece and not just a forgotten star at the end of the bench. Look to see if competing teams such as Minnesota, who just loss Jimmy Butler but gained Covington from the 76ers take a stab at the 6x all NBA star.

Reeling Rockets Can’t Find Shooting Touch

James Harden missed his second game in a row with a grade-1 plus hamstring strain, leaving Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Clint Capela to shoulder the burden for the Rockets. The defense has been a major issue with this team, leaving the Rockets “going back to the drawing board,” according to Chris Paul.

Tonight, they found themselves in Toyota Center against Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and the 4-2 Portland Trailblazers. It was the last game at the Toyota Center before a five-game road trip. The Rockets entered as a team with something to prove, coming off of a three-game losing streak. Portland was on the back-end of their back-to-back and was playing their fourth game in six days, while Houston was coming from three days’ off since their last match.

The first quarter started very sluggishly on offense, with the Rockets shooting just 5 of 27 for 19% via NBA.com and also an abysmal 1 of 10 behind the arc. Nobody could get in a rhythm, whether it was a blown layup or a brick on the wide-open 3. However, the defense came to play after having three days off; the team came together and held the Blazers to 19 points, shooting less than 38 percent.

In the second quarter, the Rockets came out more aggressively, sprinting out on a 10-2 run to tie the game at 28. Melo woke up late in the quarter with a crossover, leading to a dunk. Immediately after, he grabbed a steal and made an outlet to Eric Gordon for a three. The excitement was short-lived because when the Rockets stopped capitalizing on defensive efforts, the Blazers went on a 23 - 8 run to finish the half.

The second half produced many of the same problems: while the Rockets were struggling to score, Portland was starting to pull away. Eric Gordon received his fifth foul in the 3rd quarter, while Lillard and Nurcic had over 20 points each entering the fourth. The Rockets would add some spark in the fourth with role players like Gary Clark, getting 11 points and kicking off a 13-2 run to get the Rockets as close as 95-79 with 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter.

Capela added to his double-double, and he finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds defensively, adding three blocks. However, the Blazers would not break as they closed out any hope for a comeback, going on a 9 –6 run to end the game. The Houston Rockets dropped their fourth game in a row: their third at home. While the defense stepped up enough to put them in a position to win, the offense couldn’t take advantage, shooting 32 percent from the field and 23 percent from three. All stats via NBA.com.

LeBron James: Worth the Price of Admission

Welcome to the West, Lebron James!

Lebron James has won multiple MVPs, won multiple titles, 13 NBA All-Star appearances, eight straight Finals appearances, and is in the conversation of who is the GOAT? He’s done it all, but one thing that keeps holding him back from being claimed The Greatest of All-time, is that he has these accomplishments in an era where the East is a far inferior Conference than the Western.

That leads skeptics to think he couldn’t possibly appear to as many Finals if he were in the West. Debates on whether or not we should have 1-16 playoff seeding regardless of conference have been a major topic due to this type of success. Lebron James is now putting himself to the test by not just going to the West, but going to a LA Lakers team who hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2013.

The King moves to LA.

Lebron is now rocking the purple and gold in the old Showtime Lakers threads under the bright lights of LA. He joins a team who has been underwhelming the past few years, but full of young talent with a lot of potential, including Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Lonzo Ball. He also brought in some veterans such as Lance Stephenson, Javale Mcgee, and Rajon Rondo. Rondo brings a leadership presence that can help ease the load off Lebron, but by no means he’s no Dwyane Wade. This collection of talent may not be enough to contend in most eyes, but Lebron has done the most with little to nothing, and he is now ready take this Lakers tour on the road to a city near you!

Playoff Feeling

ESPN presents Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in Staples Center for the first time. It is game two of the season and already Lebron faces yet another playoff contender. A sold-out Staples Center was rocking, waiting to see Lebron go up against a legitimate title contender and reigning MVP James Harden and a fresh look Rockets team. You have to hand it to LA they really know to put on an intro and if you were watching on ESPN you had an inside look of the special presentation.

This was more than an opening-night, this night had such electricity in the air you easily can get swept into the hype. In front of 18,997 fans in the building this special night did not disappoint. If you thought this stadium was loud, throughout the game it amped up in the fourth quarter with 4:13 left to play. The Rockets were up by 109-108, when Brandon Ingram in frustration shoved James Harden after he was called for a foul. This was a light skirmish compared to what happened just 20 feet away when Rondo allegedly spit on Chris Paul’s face and the fists started flying. Stars such as Floyd Mayweather were courtside smiling ear to ear, this game truly had it all.

Showtime Is Back

Despite the 124-115 loss to the Rockets, Lebron proved that he is not afraid of the West and he has a team that can compete. Lebron will always do his own thing, leading his team with 24 points, he also ended the game with five boards and five assists. The most important thing is he brought out the potential in his teammates that really highlighted their attributes. Seven other teammates reached double digits in points, most notably Javale Mcgee who seems to take advantage of this bigger role than he had in Golden State with an efficient 7-11 FG for 16 points. Rajon Rondo finished the game with a double-double with 13 points and ten assists.

Although 0-2, this Lebron led team has provided excitement that hasn’t been there since Kobe was competing for championships. Tickets to see The Lakers does not come cheap, the average price for the Lakers debut against the Rockets was an insane $934. Second most expensive ticket is the Christmas game against Golden State which is just over $700. If you don’t make it to the game, you can only wish you had, because Lebron joining the Lakers just might be the best entertainment we didn’t know the NBA needed.