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Last updated 11/6/2018 at Noon

Have you ever noticed that most National Football League teams that reach the playoffs each have an outstanding quarterback and a well-respected coach?

Just take a look at the current standings at the halfway point in the 2018 season—all four teams currently leading their respective divisions in the American Football Conference fall into this category.

Our Houston Texans would have to be classified as “newcomers” to his scenario as Head Coach Bill O’Brien continues to get accolades from his peers as he brings along young quarterback DeShaun Watson.

After losing their first three games of the season by a touchdown or less, the Texans started winning and haven’t been stopped since then. Their first two wins were hard-fought and went into overtime against Indianapolis (37-34) and Dallas (19-16) with the next three victories coming more comfortable.

But Sunday’s 19-17 win at Denver proves my old adage that teams going well also prove to be the luckiest. Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed an easy extra point in the second period, but atoned for his boo-boo by booting a 46-yard field goal in the first half and a crucial 36-yarder that gave the Texans a 19-17 lead.

The lucky part of my theory came as time ran out and Brandon McManus’ 51-yard field goal try to give his Broncos a 20-19 win went wide right, ensuring the 19-17 victory for the visiting Texans.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had an even tougher time to lead the AFC North Division thanks to the prolonged holdout of star running back Le’Veon Bell. But Head Coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still find ways to win without Bell, who incidentally, will not be able to play at all in 2018 if he doesn’t report by Nov.15.

My favorite coach is Kansas City’s Andy Reid who spent a whole season developing Patrick Mahomes into a record-setting quarterback by having the best start by an NFL quarterback in 68 years. The Chiefs are off to an 8-1 start and lead the AFC West Division.

The combination of Hall of Fame-bound Tom Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick continue to be the best in the game as the New England Patriots sit atop of the AFC East. This tandem continues to come up with ways to turn a close game into a comfortable fourth-period lead and a victory with some kind of crazy play.

The National Football Conference also has its quarterback-coach pair of winners at New Orleans where record-setting Drew Brees and Head Coach Sean Payton find ways to pull out victories late in the game.

In Sunday’s game against the undefeated LA Rams, who rallied from a 35-17 deficit to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, Brees connected with Michael Thomas on a 72-yard touchdown pass, spurring the Saints to a 45-35 victory.

The last time the Rams started a season 8-0 was on Nov. 9, 1969. But the youthful duo of Head Coach Sean McVea and quarterback Jared Goff duplicated that feat until being upset by the Saints in New Orleans Sunday.

The Washington Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden obtained quarterback Alex Smith in a trade with Kansas City and have been playing well enough to lead the weak NFC East Division.

A couple of “no-names” are leading the Chicago Bears to the top of the NFC North Division. Head Coach Mike Nagy and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky seem to pull the right strings at the right time, giving the Bears a 5-3 mark to lead their division.

It’s a shame the Dallas Cowboys didn’t qualify to join this elite group at the half-way mark. But now that Head Coach Jason Garrett has secured a deep passing threat in wide receiver Amari Cooper, it should open up the whole offense for quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Let’s see if these coach-quarterback tandems can remain effective until playoff time rolls around in two months.

KWICKIES…Houston Astros ace left-hander and 2018 Golden Glover Dallas Keuchel, who is now a free agent, received a qualifying offer last weekend from the Astros for a one-year, $17.9 million to return to Houston for the 2019 season. Keuchel has until Monday to render a decision. In the meantime, he is free to survey his market value and negotiate with other teams. Keuchel is really looking for another long-term contract. If Keuchel declines the Astros’ offer and signs with another team, Houston will receive a draft pick as compensation. He also can negotiate a deal to remain with the Astros.

Ten out of the top 25 teams in last week’s Associated Press College Football Poll suffered losses, with four to other ranked teams. Five teams in the Top 10 remained the same as last week including the top three, Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Ohio State (No. 8) and Washington State (No. 10). Five new teams cracked the Top 25 including No. 20 Washington, No. 22 North Carolina State, No. 23 Iowa State, No. 24 Michigan State and No. 25 Cincinnati.

Kansas head football coach David Beaty lost his job last weekend with three games to go. Beaty will coach the remaining three games and will be paid $3 million in six installments under the terms of his contract. In three-plus seasons Beaty was 6-39 with just two Big 12 wins.

The Texas Longhorns and the Texas Aggies will have to learn how to hold onto fourth period leads. Both teams were defeated in the waning minutes of the game, the Longhorns 42-41by West Virginia and the Aggies 28-24 to Auburn.

Florida voters decided last night whether to abolish dog racing. Of the 17 dog tracks nationwide, Florida has 11 with only one showing a profit. Forty other states have outlawed the sport.

JUST BETWEEN US…During halftime of the Army-Air Force football game at West Point Saturday, the Black Knights baseball team—including my grandson Logan “Smitty” Smith--received their championship rings for winning the Patriot League last spring and earning a berth in the NCAA Baseball Tournament. Logan was the closer in the bullpen and has yet to lose a game in two years for Army. After jumping out to a 14-0 halftime lead, Army hung on for a 17-14 victory over Air Force in Saturday’s football game.


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