A Flawless Patriots-Texans Preview

If you’re like me, you get the occasional urge to place a few dollars on a professional football game. I haven’t convinced my boss to let me expense my gambling losses in the name of “research” yet, but the good fight continues. As long as I don’t end up like these guys, I think I’ll be okay…

Which brings us to tonight’s game: the Houston Texans and their varsity jackets going into Foxborough to take on New England. With the uncertainty surrounding the QB position for the Patriots, Houston enters the game as a 1 point favorite.

The argument for taking Houston -1:

Everyone and their mother knows by now that Jimmy Garoppolo is no fluke. But there appears to be almost no chance he plays tonight, leaving rookie Jacoby Brissett as the starter with Julian Edelman as his backup. No matter how much Bill Parcells talks him up, and as much as people within the Patriots organization like him as a long-term prospect, it is hard to imagine New England’s offense not taking a step back, if for no other reason than Brissett not being totally comfortable and confident yet with his pass-catching weapons.

Anyone who watched the AFC Championship game last year knows the Patriots’ achilles heel is their pass protection. They have looked better this year with Dante Scarnecchia back in the fold and Garoppolo getting throws out in about .25 seconds, but any Patriots fan will admit they are still worried about it. With JJ Watt back healthy, Jadeveon Clowney showing serious signs of life, and Whitney Mercilus playing like he discovered the fountain of youth at a clinic in Germany, the Texans look poised to be able to pressure the QB without blitzing, which has been the Pats’ one consistent kryptonite over the years.

If Houston can get in Brissett’s face and stop the run with only 4 or 5 guys, they should double-team Edelman, taking away the security blanket for every Patriots QB, and press the rest of the pass-catchers, forcing Brissett to beat them deep. This strategy has worked for the Ravens and Giants against Brady in the past, and if it works against Brady it should work against a rookie who has never started a game.

The Texans are less impressive on offense, but they still possess a handful of weapons that should give the Patriots fits if they’re used correctly. Lamar Miller hasn’t been explosive so far in Houston, but he should be able to be effective enough to keep the Patriots’ defense honest, especially if they’re without Donta Hightower.

Brock Osweiler hasn’t blown anyone away, but he is accurate and strong enough to deliver the ball to open receivers and is getting more comfortable in the offense as time goes by. The Patriots defense is also slightly overrated: they often struggle to rush the passer and cover in the secondary, which can lead to disasters like last week’s second half vs the Dolphins. Being the Patriots former offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien knows this as well as anyone. Even when they are playing well, the Patriots tend to give up lots of passing yards (see Larry Fitzgerald in the fourth quarter in Week 1) and rely on preventing big plays and forcing Field Goals in the Red Zone.

If the Texans can avoid settling for Field Goals and convert a TD or two early, it will force the Patriots to move away from what I expect to be a run-heavy offensive game plan, putting that much more pressure on the rookie Brissett. It’s never easy against the Patriots, but if the Texans can stick to this game plan, they have the horses to get it done.


The argument for taking the Patriots +1:

New York Jets v New Engalnd Patriots

Enough said: I’m rolling with the Patriots…

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