Preview Of The Enemy: New England Patriots
No one expects the Texans to win this game. In truth, a loss would be more beneficial to their long term success than a win. The Texans lost around five or six spots in the draft in 2010 when they won their final game against Jacksonville. The Patriots are obviously a much bigger challenge than the Jaguars, but similarly a win after their playoff chances had already vanished, would hurt them in the upcoming NFL draft.
If the Texans still have fight left in them, we’ll find out quickly on Sunday. After two embarrassing losses to two bad teams at home, signs of them starting to mail it in wouldn’t be surprising. However, they were dominated twice by the Patriots last season so you have to figure pride will kick in for Texans players to make sure this game is at least competitive.
Takeaways – The Patriots defense hasn’t been dominate, but it’s been opportunistic. Coming into this week the Patriots are tied for 4th in the NFL in takeaways at 2.1 per game. The Texans rank 23rd in offensive turnovers and 30th in turnover differential (-12); turnovers will likely be a big factor again this week.
Gronk Like Catch Ball – Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is averaging career bests in receptions per game (6.2) and receiving yards per game (86.6) this season. Gronkowski is nearly an impossible match-up; he’s faster than linebackers and bigger than the safety’s trying to cover him. The linebackers for the Texans have struggled in coverage this season but a rookie like D.J. Swearinger, who is known more for his big hits than his coverage skills, won’t fare any better. Expect a big fantasy game from Gronkowski.
Injuries On Defense – Texans fans know the pain of losing quality starters on defense with Brian Cushing and Danieal Manning out for the year. The Patriots have lost even more on that side of the ball with injuries ending the season of Pro-Bowlers Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork. Those injuries to star players in their front seven has really hurt their run defense. New England ranks 31st in rushing yards allowed per game, 26th in yards allowed per rush attempt, and 29th in rushing first downs allowed per game.
This could have been a favorable match-up for the run heavy Texans, too bad Arian Foster is out for the year and Ben Tate is banged up. Dennis Johnson might be worth a flyer as a flex option in fantasy football this week; he averaged 5.6 yards on 13 carries last week.
Bend But Don’t Break – Maybe this could be listed as a strength, but typically defenses that fit into this category are more lucky than good. Is there an art to red zone defense? Maybe, but they were bad enough to let them drive the other 60-80 yards, so this number seems like more of a fluke. Currently the Patriots rank 21st in yards allowed but ninth in points allowed.
The obvious strategy when facing a great quarterback is to play ball control and keep him off the field. The Patriots also rank 27th in first downs allowed per game, which plays right into that strategy for any opponent capable of taking advantage of that weakness.
Passing Game Doesn’t Travel – At home this season, Tom Brady has completed 62% of his pass attempts with 12 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. On the road, Brady has completed 57% of his passes with 5 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. Brady’s home QB rating is 95.7, his road QB rating is 76.3; the Patriots are 6-0 at home and 2-3 on the road.