Will Anything Change for the Texans?
By the end of the weekend, we will know the fate of the Houston Texans when they will head Northeast to face the heavily favored New England Patriots. The biggest question for the Texans is can they erase all of the bad memories of their week 14 meeting and silence all of their critics.
A Divisional round appearance once again for the Texans and the big factor is Matt Schaub is behind center for the offense which is better than the 2011 rookie version of T.J. Yates. Not downplaying the job Yates did to get the team to where he did last year, but the offense was a shell of itself. Schaub completed more passes in one playoff game (29) than Yates did in his two games (28) during last year’s playoffs. The offense is much more complex with Schaub and he does give the team the best chance to win. Schaub will have to play an error free game and be confident in the pocket for the Texans to stand a chance in enemy territory.
The offense will have to help the defense keep Tom Brady off the field with their ball control mentality. Shortening the game with a good run game can also limit the chance for Brady and many will talk about how the defense has to step up against the Patriots offense. The defense has to do their part by getting to Brady and knocking him down, but look no further than the stagnant offense that did very little in the first meeting. The Patriots can only light up the scoreboard if they are on the field, but the offense can help that cause out with a big day.
The Texans are completely healthy (with the exception of Brice McCain) according to Head Coach Gary Kubiak, and they will have Garrett Graham, Alan Ball, Brooks Reed and Derek Newton all healthy for this game against the Patriots. All four of them were out for the first meeting where the Texans were throttled by the Patriots, and all four WILL make a difference for this game. Graham will allow the offense to use their complete playbook and Newton will give the offensive line a boost in athleticism over veteran Ryan Harris. Reed makes a big difference when it comes to the run game and Ball has already made a difference on the special teams in last week’s playoff game. Have all hands on deck will help and getting back two starters will help the both sides of the football.
Garrett Graham could be a key piece in the offense, not so much for his ability to make plays but how they use him in the offense. The Texans offense is surprisingly efficient with James Casey (FB/TE), Owen Daniels (TE), Graham (TE) and Andre Johnson split out wide. Defenses have to respect Johnson split out with at least two defensive backs, and Casey’s ability to lineup as a fullback, slot wide receiver or another tight end puts defenses in a bind. Throw in Arian Foster who runs well out of single back sets makes this multi-faceted offensive set their most successful and the ability to run and throw out of it is fun to watch.
Speaking of Alan Ball, he could possibly be a big key for the defense IF Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips uses him on defense. With Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski causing havoc in the middle of the field, Ball could easily be the player that could match up with Hernandez with his height and frame. The defense has been struggling with their third safety in their dime personnel, with Quintin Demps struggling to cover receivers and Shiloh Keo being deficient with his speed at safety. Ball has filled in a few snaps at the safety position in a pinch during the regular season, so it could be a good time to use him in the most important game of the season.
Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips will have to have their A games planned before kickoff and understand all of the coaching has happen during the week. Adjustments can be made during the games, but the game plans are set for the most part before they board the plane. It will be interesting to see if there are any changes from the regular season meeting and the confidence the team will come out with on kickoff. It will fall on their shoulders to make the necessary changes, but it comes down to the 53 players that suit up for the Texans on Sunday to make the real changes.
Prediction: Texans 21….Patriots 20