March 19, 2018

Texans To Watch: Patriots Edition

This week 14 matchup consists of two leaders in the AFC both on six game winning streaks. The Houston Texans (11-1) look to make a statement on the prime time stage of Monday Night Football in the house that Tom Brady built, Gillette Stadium. Some believe this is a preview of the AFC Championship game. The Patriots (9-3) have already clinched the AFC East champion title while the Texans are still looking to not only win the AFC South but gain home field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

This game features several matchups but probably the most interesting will be the coaching matchup between Patriots’ Bill Belichick and Texans’ Gary Kubiak. In tightly contested games, the final factor usually comes down to a special teams play or coaching.  Both teams have excellent coaching experience but the edge must go to the Patriots for the simple fact that they have more championships. And, the Patriots record in December for the last decade is astonishing.

Texans to Watch:  Defense

The Texans will once again look to stop the Patriots’ running attack and make them one dimensional so they can focus on simply rushing Tom Brady.  But, “be careful what you wish for” applies here.  Forcing Tom Brady into a passing quarterback might be playing into their strengths and into the Texans’ weaknesses.  With the Texans’ secondary banged up, this group will be the players to watch this week, especially the return of Johnathan Joseph from injury and the emergence of former second round pick Brandon Harris playing the slot.  The key question is who will be matched with the Patriots’ Wes Welker, who is arguably the Patriots biggest threat.

The other matchup the Texans’ fans should focus on is how Bill Belichick will stop J.J. Watt.  When teams double team Watt, there is usually some success because the Texans other defensive linemen have lost their one on one battles.  Antonio Smith will need to play big this week if the Patriots choose to double Watt, otherwise Brady will have all day to pick apart the Texans’ secondary. One hidden or surprise matchup will be the Patriots’ running game versus the Texans’ inside linebackers and NT Shaun Cody.  Teams have had success rushing right up the middle when Cody is out of the line up.  Cody and ILB’s Bradie James (who is expected back from an injury), Daryl Sharpton, Tim Dobbins and even Barrett Ruud will need to recognize the run quickly and attack the line of scrimmage so the Patriots’ backs can’t get up field. 

Texans to Watch:  Offense

The Texans offense has started many of this year’s games by using the pass to set up the run. The key for the Texans’ success is to keep the Patriots guessing and keep them off balance in their defensive schemes. The NFL game is all about exploiting the mismatch by getting the opposition into weak or weaker positions. The Texans should be able to pass the ball on the Patriots’ defense, whether on the outside with Andre Johnson or underneath to Owen Daniels.

This game could turn out to be another high scoring shoot out – to the liking of the Monday Night Football and the NFL.  If this is the case, this week’s Texan to watch on the offense is quarterback Matt Schaub.  Schaub will need to be flawless to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots.  Bill Belichick is a defensive mastermind and will most likely have some new wrinkles that Schaub and the offense have not seen yet this year.  The Texans’ defense blitzes more than any other team so it shouldn’t surprise fans to see Belichick use a “beat you at your game” strategy and attempt to throw relentless pressure on Schaub during passing downs. Schaub will need to lead like never before in order for the Texans to win this game.

With this being the most intriguing matchup of the entire NFL weekend, fans can believe the NFL would like to see an exciting high scoring game.  Knowing or understanding this, the Texans’ receivers should be ready to play through extremely tight coverage with a lot of no-calls or border line pass interference.  This favors Andre Johnson, who is a bigger physical receiver and matchup nightmare for the Patriots.

The Patriots have set the bar high for those organizations, like the Texans, who want to establish a long-term winner.  This game has many implications but is just one step toward a bigger goal for the Texans’ organization.

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