Week 14: Houston Texans At New England Patriots
- QuarterbackThis 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.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.
- OffenseThe 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).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).
- DefenseThe 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 TeamsThe 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.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 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.