By Danny Cox
The New England Patriots had an extra week of rest after earning a first-round bye in the playoffs, and now they’re preparing to welcome the Houston Texans into their home for the divisional round this Saturday. Despite taking out an Oakland Raiders team that truly impressed NFL fans this season, this Texans team isn’t unbeatable.
Houston Texans Season Record: 9-7
The Texans finished the regular season with a 9-7 record that had them sitting atop the AFC South, but barely over the (9-7) Titans and (8-8) Colts. Because they were in a rather poor AFC division this season, the Texans were able to get into the playoffs, but it’s hard to say they are one of the elite in the NFL. Yes, the Texans were able to defeat the Oakland Raiders in the first round last week, but it’s obvious that the Raiders have been faltering ever since losing quarterback Derek Carr to injury on Christmas Eve against the Colts.
And let’s not forget that just three months ago, the Texans faced off with the Patriots and were shut out 27-0.
Texans On Offense
The Texans have one of the worst offensive units in the league. During the regular season, the Texans averaged less than 18 points-per-game (ranked 29th)—there is no way that any team can keep up with the explosive Patriots scoring so few points. Houston also ranked 29th in the regular season in net passing yards and rushing yards per game.
While there have been questions at quarterback, Tom Savage is just getting out of the league’s concussion protocol and Bill O’Brien has said Osweiler will start against the Patriots. Brock Osweiler did lead the Texans to a victory over the Raiders, but he wouldn’t have even been in there after being benched if Savage had not suffered a concussion.
Texans On Defense
If Houston is going to stay in the game, they are going to do it on the backs of their defense. Even though the Patriots scored 27 points on them in the regular season, this is the No. 1 defensive unit in the entire NFL. They allow just over 300 total yards per game to opposing offenses.
The good thing for the Patriots is that they have one of the top offenses in the league and are led by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Still, Texans players such as Brian Cushing, Whitney Mercilus and Benardrick McKinney are going to do everything possible to get after Brady, and the Pats will need to protect their QB at all costs.
Texans Players To Watch: RB Lamar Miller and LB Jadeveon Clowney
Fans may not hear his name often, but Lamar Miller has really picked things up this season as he quietly went over 1,000 yards to go along with five touchdowns on the ground. When the passing game appears to struggle, Miller knows how to step in and get the hard yards with strong running that the Patriots will need to focus on stopping at the line.
While some looked at Jadeveon Clowney as a bust after his first couple of injury-plagued years, the freakish talent drafted out of South Carolina is showing signs of the player he was in college. Clowney had a sack in each of the final three games of the regular season and one forced fumble. Against the Raiders, he only had one total tackle, but kept dropping into coverage, which allowed him to pick off one of Connor Cook’s passes and knock two of them down.
The Houston Texans do have talent on both offense and defense, but it is difficult to think that they will be able to contend or even keep up with the New England Patriots. Tom Brady and the Patriots are playing at a very high level – just as they have throughout the entire season. There are just too many holes in the Texans’ game plan and questions at quarterback that still remain unanswered. If New England just plays as they always do, it should not be difficult to move into the Conference Championship.