This game could very well be decided by injuries. New England will be lacking two huge offensive producers in Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots offense has at times this season, appeared to be unstoppable. This week though, they will be without two key starters – Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Last week against the Dolphins, the Patriots produced just 213 net passing yards, their second-lowest total of the season.
Bill Belichick is one of the best at putting his pieces in a position to succeed. If anyone can keep an offense going after losing two guys that big, it’s Bill.
Houston may have lost a key piece as well, though it may not be new news, it is still big news. Johnathan Joseph remains on the Texans’ injury report as ‘questionable.’ If Joseph is unable to go (we’ve seen his impact in the past,) the Patriots may very well have a bid day passing the football.
They have been on fire this season, though the Dolphins slowed them down quite a bit in week 13. Brady was sacked four times, resulting in 25 lost yards. If J.J. Watt is able to go on Monday, the Texans will have an effect (at the very least) on Brady’s ability to set up in the pocket. We all know how deadly Watt can be; even Belichick spoke cautiously of his prowess.
Again, injuries just might play a part in this game.
Assuming they don’t, we will focus on the fundamental differences between these teams. The Patriots rank 13th in time of possession this year with 30:36 per game. The Texans lead the league with 33:59 per game.
If the Texans are able to keep the ball away from Brady and the Pats, they will have a manageable game in their hands. Houston created six turnovers last week against the Titans.
This week, however, they find themselves pitted against a slightly more efficient opponent. New England has turned the ball over just nine times all season. Don’t expect any inordinate number of turnovers in this game, period. From either team. Pretty reliable ball-handlers across the board.
Arian Foster will come into this game having rushed for just 38 yards on 14 carries against the Titans. New England’s 9th ranked rushing defense, paired with the 26th ranked defense overall (yards allowed) make it hard to imagine a Houston team that struggles to run the ball. Keep in mind though, that last week was against the Titans. The Titans are nowhere near as solid as the Patriots on defense. Foster and Forsett could in fact, be in for long days.
The Patriots thrive when they create turnovers.
If Houston wants to compete in this game they must limit those turnovers, and most importantly finish drives. New England is not particularly strong in the red zone, so Foster and the big tight ends should be favorable if the Texans are able to punch it deep into Patriot territory.
If the Texans’ secondary shows up. Literally, just shows up healthy and ready to play. The complexity of this game changes entirely. The game will be decided by the Texans’ ability to stop Brady, more than the Patriots’ ability to stop the well-balanced offense of Houston.
The match ups are endless, but that one seems to have the most weight riding with it.
Regardless, the winners will have established themselves as favorites in the AFC, and perhaps as a Super Bowl contender.