Houston Is Going To Have A Problem
After a week without football in New England, the Patriots finally know who their first opponent is in the quest for their fifth Lombardi Trophy. This Saturday at 8:15 p.m., the Patriots will face the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium.
Houston won the AFC South Division this year with a 9-7 record, securing the fourth-overall seed and advanced to the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs after defeating the Oakland Raiders – who started their third-string quarterback – last weekend 27 – 14.
Fans will remember an early-season matchup between the Texans and the Patriots when Houston traveled to New England for a Thursday night game in week three. The Texans suffered their worst loss of the year. Third-string Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett filled in for a suspended Tom Brady and an injured Jimmy Garappolo as the ground game flourished, propelling the Patriots to a 27-0 victory.
Since then, Houston benched their $72 million quarterback Brock Osweiler a couple of weeks ago, only for him to regain the starter role after backup quarterback Tom Savage was unable to play with a concussion. Osweiler looked more in command of the offense against the Raiders, but still only completed 14-of-25 passes for 168 yards and one touchdown (also one rushing touchdown). That doesn’t exactly instill fear in the hearts of defenses.
The Texans defense, however, should not be taken lightly. Houston finished the season as the number-one defense in the NFL, surrendering an average of just 203 yards per game. The defense is solid all around and can get pressure to the quarterback, even without All-Pro DE J.J. Watt. Texans LB Jadeveon Clowney had a breakout game against the Raiders, recording his first-career interception in his first-ever playoff game. Clowney showed glimpses of the defensive factor the Texans hoped he could be when they took him with the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
This time around, the Patriots look a little different as well.
The most noticeable change is the man under center. Tom Brady will lead the Patriots offense and all he has done since he returned in week five is throw for 3,500+ yards, 28 touchdowns and only two interceptions. If that’s not enough, Brady will have a few new weapons at his side.
LeGarrette Blount continues to be a force in the running game, but Dion Lewis has returned as one of the most dangerous pass-catching backs in the game. The Patriots have also since acquired the skilled WR Michael Floyd on waivers after he was released from Arizona Cardinals for off-the-field issues. He has shown signs lately that he can be a real contributor to this offense. Danny Amendola has also returned to practice and could make an appearance.
Bill Belichick will have his team ready for this matchup. The Patriots are 16-point favorites in some places, but have never been a team to look ahead and get caught in a trap game. The Patriots should handle their business this weekend without too much trouble and if they prevail, New England would take on either the Pittsburgh Steelers, or the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship the following weekend in Foxboro. Either one of those teams presents a much tougher matchup than the Texans, but it will be hard to bet against Tom and Bill at home, including against Houston this weekend.
The toughest part of the Patriots schedule was always the first four games of the season without Brady, They weathered the storm just fine without their superstar and now start their Super Bowl run with Houston, hoping to end it in Houston, the site of this year’s Super Bowl.