SCOUTING THE OPPONENT
So why the 16-point spread?
The Texans are statistically one of the worst offenses in the NFL. They rank 30th according to Football Outsiders, including 27th in the run game and 30th in the passing game. Lamar Miller is last in the NFL in yards after contact. Texans QB Brock Osweiler was the worst quarterback in 2016 with 300+ passing plays. In Week 3 he only completed 58.5% of his passes against the Patriots for 196 yards, zero touchdowns, and 1 interception. His 60.6 Passer Rating was only his sixth worst this year. Texans are 2-7 record when they allow 21 points or more, with the wins coming against the Jaguars and the Colts (overtime). Six of those seven losses came on the road. They allow +8 more points on Defense and the Offense scores -7 points less on the road Texans have one of the worst special teams unit in the NFL. The Patriots capitalized on two Texans fumbles in Week 3. Houston also fumbled twice on special teams in the last weekend’s Wild Card game. The Patriots have been masterful at using their special teams unit to force opposing offenses into bad starting field position; they are the best in the league at that category. Patriots shut out the Texans in Week 3, but this Defense will have a different look. In Week 3 that defense featured Jamie Collins (traded to Cleveland) and Jonathan Freeny (Injured Reserve) at linebacker while Dont’a Hightower was inactive with a knee injury. Kyle Van Noy was still “playing” for the Lions; Rob Ninkovich (suspended) and Shea McClellin weren’t in the game plan yet. Trey Flowers has also emerged as the team’s best Pass Rusher. Lamar Miller rushed for 1,261 yards this season, the offense really flows through him. However, he is last in the NFL in yards after contact. Not to mention he will be running at the NFL’s 4th ranked run defense. But… Osweiler will be entering this game with his arguably his best 2 game stretch all season. He is 35 of 65 (52.8%) for 421 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs over past two weeks. In the passing game DeAndre Hopkins is the only real threat. He had 67 yards against the Raider with all of them coming in the first half. He will probably be shadowed by Logan Ryan who has historically held Hopkins in check. Ryan has limited Hopkins to only 54 yards a game, versus Hopkins 77 yards a game average the last two years. Will Fuller is the Texans second leading receiver, but 50% of his yards came in Weeks 1-4 and he has drop issues. Tight Ends is what this offense really relies on. The last 3 games the TE’s were targeted just as many times as Hopkins combined. Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedeorowicz rank 3 and 4 on the team in receiving. Griffin had a season high 8 receptions against the Pats with Fiedeorowicz out. Expect more of the same this weekend, but McCourtey and Chung will need to be very active to stop them.On defense Houston has allowed the fewest yards to opposing teams all year; ranked 5th in points allowed per drive. This is one of the strongest Defenses, from a statistical standpoint, that the Patriots will have faced all season. All of this without J.J. Watt, but don’t worry I’m sure you’ll see plenty shots of him after every tackle. The emergence of Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and Bernardrick McKinney has been the key to their success. Make no mistake the Texans defense has kept them in many games this season. Clowney was disruptive last week with All-Pro Tackle, Donald Penn out for Oakland. He did have the highlight batted pass. What’s so impressive about Clowney is how fast he gets off the ball. He is physical with a long wing span. He only finished the game with one tackle though. Much like Watt he allows for other players like Mercilus or D.J. Reader to get sacks. He finished the Week 3 match up with only 2 tackles and not much else. Gronk spent a lot of his night putting on a blocking clinic against him. Bottom line is that the Texans have NEVER won in Gillette. That stadium is as tough an environment as any in the playoffs. Oh, and Tom Brady didn’t play in Week 3 when the Pats shut them out. In that game, they used several combos of the Big Formation to wear the Texans Defense down with Blount. Even without Gronk this offense seems to be clicking. Michael Floyd has been a nice addition so far, but a long way to go. I expect Dion Lewis (missed Week 3) to contribute big this week with screens and draws. The best way to stop a great pass rush is to let them run up field while you run right past them. Finally, the Patriots are 4-0 when facing the Texans at home; 7-1 all-time. The last time these two met in the playoffs the Pats routed Houston 41-28. Yes, something is bound to give but I don’t see it happening this weekend. Pats win 37-13, in a game that’s close early. Impress your friends or depress your Texans friends with those stats, but cheer loud Saturday and Go Pats!