Week 3 Tale Of The Tape: Houston Texans At New England Patriots

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 14: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans scrambles away from Carl Lawson #58 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium on September 14, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 17: Tom Brady #12 and Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots celebrate after a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
  • Quarterback
    Deshaun Watson got his first start and first victory in the NFL in Week Two against the Bengals, but he will have a much tougher assignment against the defending Super Bowl champions. Watson has the athletic tools and intelligence to become an excellent quarterback, but his lack of experience and exposure is likely to show up in this game as the Pats show him new fronts that he hasn’t seen before.
    The Patriots bounced back from their Week One disaster with an impressive offensive performance against the Saints, and Tom Brady was able to slice and dice the soft New Orleans defense. Now he has to confront J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney and one of the most dominating defenses in the league. Brady is up to the challenge, but he will have a much tougher day than he did in Week Two.
  • Offense
    The Texans have to get something out of their running game and Lamar Miller is capable of giving Watson a big assist in this are because he runs hard and wants the ball. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is a legitimate go-to target with excellent run-after-the-catch skills, and Braxton Miller should be helpful as a No. 2 receiver. The loss of TE C.J. Fedorowicz is a tough blow for the offense.
    The Pats are not at full strength as a result of injuries, and they are unlikely to have Rob Gronkowski (groin) at full strength. Past injuries may make head coach Bill Belichick leery about putting an injured Gronkowski in the lineup. James White is a fine runner and receiver, while Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan are dangerous receivers with big-play ability.
  • Defense
    The Texans are capable of playing a brilliant defensive game every time out, but they have rarely performed that way against the Patriots. J.J. Watt is a game-changing force who can get after Brady, while Jadeveon Clowney is nearly as dangerous. Both are solid against the run, as is ILB Bernardrick McKinney. Jonathan Joseph (shoulder) is a fine cover corner.
    The Patriots have some defensive problems that were exploited by the Chiefs in Week One and to some extent by the Saints in Week Two. They need to put significant pressure on the quarterback with DE Trey Flowers, but he was held to two tackles against the Saints. SS Patrick Chung is a dominating tackler, but the linebacking crew is struggling at this point in the season.
  • Special Teams
    The Texans have been hurt badly by special-teams play over the years, but it looks like head coach Bill O’Brien has gotten the message and there has been some improvement. While coverage teams look sharper at this point, PK Ka'imi Fairbairn is an unproven commodity.
    The Pats leave it all on the field in this area, and while there have been occasional lapses, their coverage teams are among the best in the NFL with Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner. Stephen Gostkowski is a proven placekicker, but he has missed several extra points the last two years.
The Patriots seem to have a mental and emotional edge when the two teams play in Foxboro, and if the Texans are going to step up, they must be more competitive on the road against good teams. This would be an excellent time to begin the process.