TeXans and O’s

Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire

Dragon Slayers

His name is Deshaun Watson, first of his name. Jacker of Jaguars, killer of Colts, and Warden of the AFC South. He is now the Dragon Slayer.

For the second time in franchise history, the Houston Texans defeated the New England Patriots 28-22 behind the heroics of Deshaun Watson. Coming into this game, I had a feelings the Texans were going to finally get over the hump, and defeat the Patriots on national television.

The Patriots have been pretty shaky over the past couple of weeks despite their 10-1 record, and it showed mightily Sunday night. Tom Brady looked frazzled most the night, and often showed his frustration towards his teammates on the sidelines.

The Patriots also lost control of the top seed in the AFC to the Baltimore Ravens. That is a more pressing problem as it seems their chances to go to their fourth straight Super Bowl will require home field advantage. The Ravens are the closest thing to unbeatable in the NFL right now, and appear to be the favorite going into the last month of the season.

For the Texans, the win solidified their chances at winning the AFC South for the second year in a row. It’s not going to be easy. They play their biggest threat, the Tennessee Titans, twice before the end of the season. The good news is the Texans have an easier schedule to close out the season.

Playoff Picture

The playoff picture in the AFC is going to a lot of fun to watch going into the final month of the season. I can see two scenarios where the Texans could make the AFC Championship this season.

The second seed is the less likely of the two, but not completely impossible. It would require the Texans to go 4-0 and the Patriots to go 2-2 to end the season. Since the Patriots have been so shaky recently, culminating in Sunday’s loss, I can see them struggling against the Chiefs and surging Bills down the stretch. In this scenario, the Texans would land a coveted first round bye. That advantage, along with Deshaun Watson puts the Texans in the AFC Championship.

The other, more likely, scenario is the fourth seed. All this takes in the Texans winning their division, and finishing behind Kansas City in the final standings. This will be tricky because there is a strong likelihood these two teams will finish with the same record at the end of the season. In this scenario, the Texans would get a first round home game against, likely, the Pittsburgh Steelers. A win there would send them to Foxboro to face the Patriots. After Sunday’s win, I am not worried about the prospect of knocking off the Patriots on the road in the playoffs. Daunting? Yes, but I feel this victory could give us the confidence we’d need to get a victory at Gillette Stadium.

Super Bowl, you ask? Stop kidding yourself, the Ravens are a lock to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Cleveland Sucks

I’ll close with a story that really just needs to go away, but just keeps vomiting up more garbage with each passing week. Two weeks ago, Miles Garrett swung a helmet at the head of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. As a result, he has been suspended for the rest of this season. Personally, I feel the punishment could have been more severe, but it’s hard to push for much more. In any case, the guy deserved extreme punishment.

The following week, there were reports of Cleveland Browns fans using a Steelers helmet to swing at a Mason Rudolph piñata while tailgating. Such class, Cleveland.

Then, this week, we see an Instagram post of Browns head coach, Freddie Kitchens, wearing a t-shirt saying, “Pittsburgh started it.” This refers to the fact Rudolph was the instigator of the fight resulting in the swinging of the helmet.

Cleveland has sunk to terrible new lows in class and respectability. The Browns came into this season with a great deal of hype, but have become one of the biggest disappointments of the season. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of Kitchens. I would also lay part of the blame of the incident on him as well. Well coached players don’t swing helmets at other players. Kitchens claims his daughters wanted him to wear the shirt. What a father!

The incident is about as shameful an act a player can commit on the field of play. The best you can do is accept punishment, and move on. It says a lot about the city, team and fans of Cleveland that they not only don’t want to move on from this embarrassment, they want to revel in it. It’s a look as ugly as their uniforms.

Rockets Launch

Oops, He Did It Again

AP Photo/ Michael Wyke
AP Photo/Michael Wyke


So, James Harden scored 60 points in 31 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks Saturday night. I’m beginning to wonder if we’re even taking a moment to truly admire his accomplishments. Look at this:

From @TommyBeer

The ten highest-scoring games of 2019:
1. James Harden: 61
2. James Harden: 61
3. James Harden: 60
4. Damian Lillard: 60
5. Devin Booker: 59
6. James Harden: 59
7. James Harden: 58
8. James Harden: 58
9. James Harden: 57
10. James Harden: 57

It’s very clear to me we are witnessing something truly special with James Harden. The numbers he is putting up are simply incredible. It is a testament to his talent fans and the media have almost become apathetic about it.

In fact, Saturday night’s fireworks were a blip on the sports news scene as the day was dominated by a number of Rivalry Week showdowns, including an unforgettable Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama.

It’s all good, Harden doesn’t hold a grudge. We have another month or so before the country turns its attention to the NBA. Don’t be surprised if he goes for 50+ a couple more times before then.

The Great Experiment

A little more than a month into the season, it’s clear we can call the Great Experiment combining James Harden and Russell Westbrook a success. Going into this season, there were serious concerns around the league about how they would adjust their playing styles on the court.

Some were drooling over the prospect of opening a column about the Rockets with, “Houston, you have a problem.” Fortunately, James and Russ haven’t given them much to gripe about.

Harden is averaging 38.9 points a game, and has a legitimate chance to average 40 points a game over the course of a season. If anything, playing with Westbrook has made him better. And I LOVE watching Westbrook on the court for the Rockets. He brings a tenacity Rockets fans haven’t seen since the days of Vernon “Mad Max” Maxwell.

Now, things aren’t perfect. There have been some lapses. Westbrook’s shooting has been a liability for a team whose success is dependent on knocking down 3’s with abandon.

The good news is they still have time and plent of room to improve. Eric Gordon has been sidelined with a knee injury, and will likely be out until the New Year. His return will give the Rockets another proven shooter. A shooter that would have been invaluable in a road loss to the LA Clippers.

All in all, I feel we can be very optimistic going into the rest of the 2019-2020 season. It’s also time to prepare for a renewed rivalry with the Dallas Mavericks. More on that next week.

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen

While I am loathe to celebrate an injury of any player. I must admit I am relishing the current state of the Golden State Warriors. They are flailing with a very un-Warriorlike record of 4-17 dealing with a spate of injuries that can only be described as a Greek tragedy.

I wish them a speedy recovery. The NBA isn’t the same without them, and any Rockets playoff run will feel hollow if the Dubs aren’t vanquished on the road to a championship.

Besides, it would REALLY suck for the rest of the league if they land the #1 pick in next year’s draft a la the San Antonio Spurs when they drafted Tim Duncan. It might not be too early to start watching the college ranks for the prospective #1.