The Houston Astros definitely fought through adversity in the 2020 season. Between the sign-stealing scandal and the coronavirus pandemic, the Astros were one win away from reaching their fourth World Series.

Then again, if the team hadn’t put itself in a 3-0 hole, it would have helped matters.

But that is all in the past, and the front office must now look toward the offseason to help them find those few puzzle pieces left to reach and win the World Series.

For starters, pitcher Justin Verlander is out for all of the 2021 season with Tommy John surgery. George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick are all set to become free agents.

Luckily, Houston was smart enough to extend manager Dusty Baker’s contract after originally signing a one-year deal. Baker helped navigate this team during the sign-stealing scandal fallout and his players being vilified by fans and players alike. He kept them calm and collective while trying to help them move on despite constant pestering. He deserves much credit for his stability.

This postseason proved the Astros have plenty of pitchers who can step for the team when needed, especially when the team’s offensive firepower shows up.

The Houston Astros should take a play out of Colorado Avalanche’s general manager Joe Sakic’s playbook. The team needs to figure out who its core, star players are and then figure out if the team can sign up-and-coming players or other veterans cheaper than re-signing current players. The Astros also should not be afraid to pull the trigger on a beneficial trade.

What team owner Jim Crane and the Houston Astros should not do is rehire former general manager Jeff Luhnow and former manager A.J. Hinch. They cheated, and it’s been proven.

Even if you believe Lunhow’s victim story about how he didn’t know his players were cheating, it is still part of his job as upper management to enforce all rules and make sure everyone is following those rules. I find it hard to believe someone with that level of executive authority had absolutely no idea what was going on in his clubhouse. Even if that is true, what organization would want to hire a guy who can’t keep his own house under control?

NFL

Based off my standards, NFL picks finished terrible last week. I went 8-6.

I should have known with a new interim head coach coaching his first game that Atlanta would win. Then again, it is the Falcons. I did not expect Denver to beat New England, Tampa Bay to beat Green Bay and San Francisco to beat the Los Angeles Rams. Washington losing was a toss-up game.

Carolina was definitely an underdog pick, and I was almost right when Carolina had two shots at tying the game late in the fourth quarter until quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw an errant throw and later on an errant interception. I did say he and the defense team must limit turnovers, which they didn't.

With that review said, we are heading into Week 7, which means we are almost at the NFL season's midway point. Most teams have managed to navigate their way through the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tennessee Titans saw the worst of it with at least 24 players and personnel testing positive. After an investigation, the NFL decided to not punish the Titans. All teams — minus any bye weeks — have played six games so far.

To start the season, only the Jacksonville Jaguars had allowed fans into their stadium, but that's changing as more and more teams open their stadiums to fans at a limited capacity.

Now, let’s get down to my analysis and predictions.

WEEK 7 PREDICTIONS

BUFFALO VS. NEW YORK JETS

One team is trending in the right direction, and one team is trending in the wrong direction. Even with two-straight losses, the Buffalo Bills are 4-2 and are a fantastic team in the AFC. The New York Jets are 0-6, and like I wrote last week, I’m not convinced the Jets will collect one win this season.

I expect Buffalo to smoke the New York Jets. It may be a divisional game, but the Buffalo Bills should still wipe out the Jets. I hope the Jets can keep it competitive at least through the first quarter.

GREEN BAY VS. HOUSTON

Tampa Bay clobbered Green Bay last week, and Houston suffered a heart-breaking overtime loss. The Texans look more motivated under interim head coach Romeo Crennel, but the team still has too many issues thanks to the previous regime and overlord Bill O’Brien. The Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers should come out hungry in this game after getting smacked in the jaw last week. Houston needs to play a clean game, not settle for field goals and come up with some sort of run defense to defeat Green Bay.

JACKSONVILLE VS. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

The Los Angeles Chargers are 1-4 and the Jacksonville Jaguars 1-5, but I give more credit to the Chargers. They have only lost games by 3, 5, 7 and 3 points, and two of those games were overtime losses. This clearly tells me this team has a hard time finishing games. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have lost by 3, 18, 8, 16 and 18 points. That’s not exactly staying competitive.

The Los Angeles Chargers have more talent and a better coaching staff (despite their poor record) to have a better chance coming out on top.

SEATTLE VS. ARIZONA

If you think Seattle or Arizona will win by more than 4 points, think again. This will be a tough game. The Cardinals and Seahawks always battle out in their divisional games. The Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals games have been decided by 3 points or less in three of the last five games.

Russell Wilson has certainly slugged out the ball this season, and he has done so efficiently. However, the Seahawks defense gives up 27 points per game, which is why Wilson has to score so many points. This should be a superb game to watch.

WEEK 7 PREDICTIONS

Philadelphia 24, New York Giants 20

(1-0)

Atlanta 23, Detroit 20

Cleveland 17, Cincinnati 16

Pittsburgh 26, Tennessee 24

Upset alert: Carolina 35, New Orleans 30

Buffalo 38, New York Jets 13

Washington 20, Dallas 17

Green Bay 31, Houston 24

Las Vegas 27, Tampa Bay 24

Kansas City 28, Denver 21

San Francisco 19, New England 16

Los Angeles Chargers 34, Jacksonville 16

Seattle 29, Arizona 26

Chicago 21, Los Angeles Rams 16

Teams on bye week: Indianapolis, Miami, Minnesota and Baltimore

Week 6 results: 8-6

2020 NFL football prediction record: 63-27-1

Overall winning average: .698

Note: If key player(s) won’t start a game that I believe could change the outcome of a game, I will update my scoring predictions.

EXTRA NOTE

The Colorado Avalanche will have a new stadium name next season. It was announced Thursday that Ball Corporation and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment announced a “first-of-its-kind global partnership across three marquee venues in Denver, Los Angeles and London,” according to the press release.

“The partnership includes naming rights for Ball and KSE's hometown arena in Denver, Colorado, home to the NBA's Denver Nuggets, NHL's Colorado Avalanche and NLL's Colorado Mammoth, and also home to family entertainment and concerts,” according to the press release.

After 21 years, the Colorado Avalanche’s home stadium will no longer be called the Pepsi Center, but Ball Arena. This bums me out. Not only do I enjoy Pepsi, but I have many fond memories visiting Denver and going to the Pepsi Center to watch the Colorado Avalanche play.

I’ll get over it, but in the meantime, it still stings to have to call it Ball Arena instead of the Pepsi Center.

Keenan Betz: 409-683-5237, keenan.betz@galvnews.com or on Twitter @surebetkeenan

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