In a season that’s had quite a few teams being considered the best in the NFL, the Houston Texans, one of those teams, arrives fearing a repeat of their previous visit to where the New England Patriots exposed all their weaknesses at one last time they met.
The Patriots destroyed the Texans 42-14 in that game, beginning a three of four losing series to end the regular season before they bounced back once again in a win against the Cincinnati Bengals that was mostly about Arian Foster sending a message about being one of the best running backs in the game today.
And that is where Houston’s strength on offense lies – the running game, that establishes everything that happens next for Matt Schaub and his connection with mostly Andre Johnson. Foster ran for 140 yards in the win against the Bengals, also scoring a touchdown. The problem is that the Patriots are among the best in the NFL when it comes to stopping the run, ranking 9th in the NFL, allowing teams 101.9 yards per game.
The other issue is stopping the J.J. Watt pass rush, which is the key for the Texans as they’re usually too afraid to let their secondary face passing pressure, being the weak link in the defensive unit.
Watt was held without a sack, batted pass or tackle for loss in Week 14 against the Patriots, the only game this season he didn’t record at least one of the three disruptive plays. The Patriots made life very difficult for the Texans with their trips formation. They scored all 5 of their passing and rushing touchdowns out of this formation in the win against Houston. They averaged almost double the yards-per-play in the trips when compared to other formations in that game.
The key to beating the most aggressive defense in the NFL (sending extra pass rushers on 47 percent of dropbacks) is a quick release, which Brady has the quickest in the NFl; holding onto the ball on average for 3.03 seconds from the snap until either the pass, sack or scramble attempt. Brady was able to pass 25 times within 3.0 seconds of the snap in Week 14 against the Texans, completing 68 percent of those throws with three touchdowns.
Prediction – While the Texans will surely play a different strategy in this visit to Gillette, it’s not going to be enough against a Patriots team that is simply built too well for the visitors from Houston to beat, matching up badly with their strengths.