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TALE OF THE TAPE

Week 14: Houston Texans At New England Patriots

Texans
Patriots
Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans
New England Patriots v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Quarterback
Winner This is one of the most compelling games of the season and these teams seem likely to meet again in the postseason because they are likely the two best teams in the AFC. Matt Schaub will need to be on his game because the Pats are much better at defending the run than the pass. Schaub will need to exploit New England’s weak but improving pass defense.
Winner Tom Brady has seen everything in football and his experience usually gives him an advantage. However, the Texans’ defense can shut down any opponent. He will have to be razor sharp if he is going to come out on top in this battle. The Houston secondary is somewhat vulnerable (22nd vs. the pass), so Brady should have an opportunity if he can avoid the solid Houston pass rush.
Offense
The Patriots are much tougher against the run than the pass, but don’t expect the Texans to avoid giving the ball to running back Arian Foster. He is a dominant player and he will be challenged by Vince Wilfork. It’s doubtful the Patriots have anyone who can stay with Andre Johnson (74-1,114-3) or tight end Owen Daniel (50-598-6).
Winner The running attack has given the Patriots a dimension that they didn’t have a year ago. RB Stevan Ridley (1,010 yards and 9 touchdowns) runs with toughness and dependability. That makes life easier for Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd, who have all picked up the slack for the injured Rob Gronkowski (broken arm).
Defense
Winner The Texans have some holes in the secondary, but they can be covered up by the pass-rush ability and spectacular talent of defensive end J.J. Watt. Not only does Watt have 15.5 sacks through the first 12 games, he has also batted down 12 passes. Cornerback Kareem Jackson has four interceptions and 16 passes defensed.
The Pats have been tough to run against this year thanks to the presence of Wilfork in the middle and linebacker Jerod Mayo. However, they have been one of the most vulnerable teams against the pass. They have shown some improvement in recent weeks, but they will get tested by Schaub and the Texans. Former Buc Aqib Talib is talented but erratic.
Special Teams
The Texans have been sluggish on both punt and kickoff returns this season. Placekicker Shayne Graham has been decent this year, making 21-of-26 FG attempts this season. Donnie Jones is averaging a solid 46.7 yards per punt.
Winner The Pats have gotten a solid contribution on return teams from Julian Edelman and Devin McCourty who both have TD returns this season. Stephen Gostkowski is 24-of-30 on his field goal attempts this season and has missed some kicks he should have made. Punter Zoltan Mesko remains a solid weapon because he gets excellent height on his kicks.

The Winner Is

New England Patriots v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winner Patriots
3 out of 4

The Patriots have the edge because of homefield and their experience in big games. However, if Schaub can exploit the weakness in the New England secondary, the Texans could come away with a convincing road win.

MORE TALES OF THE TAPE

  1. KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to throw a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks to pass in the second half against the Houston Texans during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Conference Championship Tale: Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots

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  2. ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 14:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons drops back to pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the game at the Georgia Dome on January 14, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Conference Championship Tale: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons

    Two MVP candidates at quarterback meet up in Atlanta for the right to go to Super Bowl LI in Houston.

  3. GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 8:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers drops back to pass in the second quarter during the NFC Wild Card game against the New York Giants at Lambeau Field on January 8, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 26: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys throws against the Detroit Lions during the first half at AT&T Stadium on December 26, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
    Divisional Round Tale: Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

    The Packers look to avenge a loss to the Cowboys in the regular season.

See All Tales of the Tape

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