KAZ’S KORNER

Last Sunday was very crucial for both the Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys. They both were three games behind their respective division leaders and desperately needed a win to still have a chance at overtaking these front-runners.

The Texans and Cowboys were in the same dilemma as another half-dozen or more National Football League teams who had one or more key players injured and through for the season.

Houston has been without the services of defensive stalwarts J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus plus quarterback Deshaun Watson and during the forth quarter of Sunday’s game with Arizona, running back D’Onta Foreman, who blew out his Achilles tendon on a touchdown scoring run. All four are lost for the season.

The Cowboys are almost in the same boat when last year’s NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for six games, All-Pro linebacker and defensive captain Sean Lee already has missed two games. Both players should return before the end of the season. Kicker Dan Bailey has been out for several games but should return before the end of the season.

But the player whose absence is really showing up the most for the Cowboys is Pro Bowl offensive tackle Tyron Smith, who protects quarterback Zak Prescott’s blind side. Prescott was sacked eight times by Atlanta two weeks ago and was hurried to throw three interceptions in Sunday night’s 37-8 loss to Philadelphia.

Other playoff-bound teams that appear to be tanking early because of season-ending injuries to star players include the Green Bay Packers without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Arizona without quarterback Carson Palmer and running back David Johnson and the Seattle Seahawks who lost two key members to their Legion of Boom, defensive stalwarts Richard Sherman and strong safety Cam Chancellor.

Houston was on the verge of extending their losing streak to four games as quarterback Tom Savage fumbled in the second period and then had a pass deflected that resulted in an easy interception shortly thereafter resulting in two easy touchdowns for the Cardinals. putting them ahead 14-7.

But Savage drove the team downfield in the final minutes of the first half which resulted in a field goal to reduced the deficit to 14-10 at the intermission.

Savage looked like a “real NFL quarterback” after halftime, utilizing running backs Lamar Miller and Foreman to set up his passing game, mostly connecting with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown and several key receptions.

Perhaps the play that assured victory for the Texans involved Arizona head coach Bruce Arians when he elected not to punt on a fourth-and-one and running back Adrian Peterson was knocked back for a two-yard loss by Jadeveon Clowney, who had another monster game on defense.

Foreman scored the clinching touchdown on a 34-yard gallop with 6:19 left that put Houston ahead 31-21, which was the final score.

Houston head coach Bill O’Brien has been harping all season about the running game and if the team could rush for 120 yards, it has a good chance of winning. The Texans ran 34 times for 134 yards Sunday against Arizona.

The Cowboys were not as fortunate against the Eagles, who have the best record in the league at 9-1. Their defense dominated Dallas and limited the Pokes to just a “garbage touchdown” late in the fourth period

Prescott had perhaps his worst game of the season by chunking three interceptions which were the result of the Philadelphia blitzes forcing him to throw before the receivers were open.

Although the Cowboys have a much better record (5-5) than the Texans (4-6), Dallas trails the NFC East Division by a whopping four games. Houston maintained its three-game margin behind the AFC South-leading Jacksonville (7-3).

Neither Texas franchise has anything to write home about because of the season-ending injuries to key players, but home seems to be the place both teams will be once the season ends and the playoff begins.

KWICKIES…For TCU to not get to get a rematch against Oklahoma for the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 2, several things would have to happen. The Horned Frogs would have to get upset by Baylor (1-10) and finish in a two-way tie with Iowa State which beat TCU. But for that to happen Iowa State would have to beat Kansas St, Texas Tech would have to beat Texas and Kansas would have to upset Oklahoma State. Therefore, it’s a pretty good bet TCU and Oklahoma will play for the Big 12 title Dec. 2.

There was almost no change in this week’s Top Ten of the Associated Press Top 25 College Football Poll with only TCU moving up one spot to No.10. Otherwise the poll looks like No. 1. Alabama, 2. Miami, 3. Oklahoma, 4. Clemson, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Auburn, 7. Georgia, 8. Ohio State, 9 Notre Dame, 10 TCU.

If Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve wasn’t named the American League’s Most Valuable Player like he was last week, major league baseball should just stop giving the award. Even though the MVP was voted on before the playoffs, Altuve definitely would have sewn it up the way he played in the post-season.

Jim Mora won eight games or more his first four seasons as the head football coach at UCLA, but the next two years fell off to 4-8 last year and 5-6 before he was fired after Saturday’s 28-23 loss to cross-town rival USC. Mora will get a $12 million buyout of his contract which runs through 2021.

JUST BETWEEN US…If the Texas Aggies continue to pull off second-half comebacks (they have five) perhaps the text messages and Twitter tweets will cease that call for head coach Kevin Sumlin’s head. The Aggies are 7-4 and wind up their regular season Saturday against LSU in Baton Rouge. But it will be very difficult to mount a comeback with 100,000 fans screaming for them to fail. Aggie fans are probably the most loyal in the NCAA, but if they want a coach fired, it generally happens.