People might be overrating this game just a tad bit. Not to say this won’t be a classic match-up between two heavyweight AFC contenders with a storied, loosely termed, history between each other. Honestly, this could go either way. But there are plenty of other games that deserve the NBC Sunday Night Football treatment way more than Patriots VS Texans (San Francisco taking on Baltimore perhaps?). Anyway, we can’t fix the schedules and we will just have to deal with it. Anyway, let’s get down to business. Here is your Pats @ Texans preview!
Three Keys to The Game
Key #1 : Keep Tom Brady Alive
Is it really that hard? I mean, my goodness, I couldn’t tell you just how many times that turnstile Marshall Newhouse sold out Tom Brady during the time that Isaiah Wynn was out with turf toe on the injured reserve. He alone has given up six sacks and has just about put TB12 in the retirement home on numerous occasions.
With Wynn back Brady was protected better but was still hurried and sacked twice last week against Dallas. Given, the elements were in the poorest of conditions so we won’t put too much weight into it. But if Grandpa Tom can stay upright and get a second to breathe before getting hammered by whatever local high school legend the Texans have starting this week, they’ll be in good shape to have a productive day on offense. Their first on the year.
Key #2 : Get James White Involved
Seriously, has anybody seen him? RB James White has been a key staple of this offense for years. I don’t need to go over just how great he is when the ball is in his hands. But I will anyway just because he’s that damn good. He’s got 49 catches and 414 yards receiving on the year. His snap count has been brought down IMMENSELY in recent weeks. He went from 44 offensive snaps to just 28, 28, 32, and 21 in the last four games. I get the Pats want to approach a ground and pound offense with Brady not trusting anybody in this offense but Julian Edelman (who’s probably hurt in some way but is too tough to let it stop him) and Mohamed Sanu (who really is hurt). Though I don’t see what’s wrong with the Josh McDaniels special third down screen pass and the constant dump-offs that went White’s way that made this team so good with time of possession and third down percentage. Maybe the Patriots are resting him for January to really break him out. But it is extremely frustrating seeing the Patriots throw the ball to Sony Michel and watch him constantly not get the first down because he can’t make anybody miss. Please, for the sake of my fantasy team, play Sweet-Feet!
Key #3 : Defense Stays Strong
The defense has been amazing all season long (forget that Baltimore game) allowing an average 11 points per game and keeping an offense like Dallas under 10 points is an achievement. Watson and Hopkins will be a test like never seen before (FORGET BALTIMORE) who are both in the conversation for the best at their position in the NFL. Their offense has cooled in recent weeks getting molly-whopped against the Ravens where Watson threw for no touchdowns and pick and being sacked six times (he’s been sacked 32 times this year, this offensive line makes ours seem elite), then squeaking by Indianapolis last Thursday 20-17. Put Gilmore on Hopkins like you did Cooper and just put the pressure on Watson and the defense should provide the offense with amazing opportunities to actually do something.
X-Factor Of The Game : WR N’Keal Harry
Harry finally got that big catch last week against the Cowboys on a beautiful fade tossed by Brady. We could gush over the play for hours. Outside of that he had a couple bad drops on the sideline catching just the one touchdown grab on four targets all game long. He’s got a long way to go if he wants to get on Brady’s good-side, but if he can keep improving his game and be that red-zone target this offense has needed since the decline and retirement of the great Gronkowski himself? This offense might just be more threatening than a soft baby blanket after a spin through the dryer.
I’m writing this shortly after watching former Patriots practice squad member Younghoe Koo just absolutely kill it on three straight onside kick attempts against the Saints Thanksgiving Night. So yes, I’m a little agitated that we kept Mike Nugent over a young kicker with plenty of potential and let him get signed away by the Falcons.
I also watched TE Jared Cook put on an absolute show with 85 yards on the day. It’d be nice to have that guy in our offense. You know what’s crazy? We totally could have! If it wasn’t for that man-child Rob Gronkowski playing the whole “Put your right foot in, take your right foot out” charade with his retirement plans, We would have signed Cook and this offense might be a whole lot smoother than it is today. Jared Cook this year has put up 29 receptions for 374 yards and four touchdowns. All of the Patriots TEs combined? 24 catches, 307 yards and just one touchdown. Anybody else holding a little resentment for 87? Or is it just me?
Anyway back to the matter at hand. The Patriots dealt with some illness issues earlier this week. They began the week with nine players dealing with said illness including LB Jamie Collins and CB Stephone Gilmore. They didn’t participate in one practice but made it to the other. So we’ll see just what the severity is come game-time. Other injuries also include Julian Edelman with a shoulder injury and Patrick Chung with a mixture of the illness, heel injury and a chest injury with many more. The Pats are banged up but one could hope it’s just the NFL’s way of “load management” and everyone will be good come Sunday in Houston.
In a perfect world, the offense finds a groove and finally puts some touchdowns on the board (only one touchdown in the last three games). Tom Brady throws a solid 300 yard game and he doesn’t get sacked. Meanwhile the defense holds down Watson and Hopkins and gives up limited scoring opportunities and makes everybody’s life a whole lot easier.
In the real world? Offense still struggles a bit with protection still not optimal, Edelman clearly isn’t 100% healthy and Tom is forced to look elsewhere with the ball as Josh McDaniels calls a ground and pound offensive attack. Outside zone runs with Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead with a some WR screens thrown in creates a couple field goal chances with newly signed Kai Forbath in place of Nick Folk (Appendectomy).
Meanwhile the defense is forced to carry the offense again and holds it down just enough for the Pats to squeak away with the win. All because the coaching staff is just that much more elite than their opponent that leaves Bill Belichick with all smiles in the presser and Tom Brady growing evermore furious with the offense.
Final Score : 20-16, New England
Photo Source : George Bridges / Associated Press
Want more Patriots content? Like New England Patriots 366 on Facebook today!