The Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots is a game that will likely only appeal to the NFL fanatic. For the handful of fans adamant about watching every game this playoff, they’ll likely see a mismatch where Houston’s best bet is losing valiantly or losing in remarkable fashion. For the rest of us sane sports fans, we’ll be content with seeing the final score – a margin predicted as -17 in favor of the Pats, the highest point spread in the NFL since 1994 in which the 49ers were given the -17.5 advantage over the Chicago Bears. Note: the spread has dropped to as low as -15.5 as of this writing.
For the Houston faithful, a Wild Card win should be enough of a success for a season that saw the Texans go 9-7, making the postseason because the rest of the AFC South was just as mediocre. The Patriots spent most of the season blowing out teams with third- and fourth-string quarterbacks, making winning look easy within a Belichick system eager for their fifth championship ring and sixth straight AFC Championship appearance. The last time the Texans played the Patriots earlier this year, backup Jacoby Brissett put up 27 points against a Houston team that didn’t see the endzone once.
It’s no secret the amount of disgust H-Town is directing towards first-year quarterback Brock Osweiler. The Denver transplant came with a hefty price tag ($72 million) and has not played as advertised, 2,957 yards and 15 touchdowns – 27th best amongst all active starters. Osweiller was briefly taken behind the pasture in December, replaced with Tom Savage, who was quickly hurt and allowed Brock to return to the fray.
The Raiders victory was a rare accomplishment for a Texans team that has only won by more than a touchdown in two games this year; the win didn’t show much of Osweiller’s potential, throwing for 144 yards – the lowest by any quarterback against Oakland this season.
To avoid promising field position for an interception ready Patriots unit (Osweiller has hurled 16 interceptions – fourth most), Bill O’Brien will rely on the legs of Lamar Miller, who finished with 73 yards and a score against Oakland; his 1,003 total rushing yards is 10th most in the NFL.
Houston relies on a defense that somehow adapted without former MVP candidate J.J. Watt. All Pro potentials Jadeveon Clowney, Benardick McKinney and Jonathan Joseph leads a unit allowing 71.1 rushing yards per game and are the No. 1 total defense in total yards (203.3) and passing (139). The front seven is an inspired bunch, but the New England offensive front has done a spectacular job covering for Brady this year, giving opportunities to both LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. There’s so many other options in how Brady spreads the field in Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Floyd and Texas HS Football alumnus Martellus Bennett, that the Houston defense is going to be spread out and worn thin. A bright spot: the defense hasn’t allowed a quarterback to top 300 yards and cornerback Quintin Demps will play a pivotal role in keeping the ball in front of him, accounting for a team-leading six picks this season.
As the lowest scoring defense in the NFL, the Patriots group hasn’t been anything to write home about, but do enough to give the offense time of possession, where Brady has been on a tear with 28 touchdowns and two interceptions. Houston defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was employed with New England for four years – formations that Brady conditioned himself with every day in practice during Crennel’s employment. Doesn’t help that Houston is 0-4 at Gillette Stadium and 1-7 all-time against New England.
Texas HS Football staff picks: New England 10-2
My pick: Patriots. I’m calling it right now: if the Texans win this game, they’ll make it to the Super Bowl. If the Football Gods somehow interfere with this match, a Texas Bowl between Houston and Dallas is a large possibility. With a loss, expect Brock Osweiller to look near his alma mater at ASU for employment with the Cards.
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