Just like many of us expected would be the case back in Week 14, the Patriots and Texans will meet in the playoffs today. The only catch: it is going to be in Foxboro instead of Houston.
The fact that the Texans somewhat backed into the playoffs this year may rear its ugly head on Sunday as they go back to New England, the place where they got trounced only 2 months ago. As a matter of fact, it would appear that the game against the Patriots in Week 14 is what sent the Texans reeling. After that shelleacking the Texans would lose 2 out of 3 and apparently lose their pass rush as well.
Over the past 3 games the Texans have only managed 4 sacks after averaging about 3 per game before that stretch. This does not bode well for them against the fast-paced, hurry up offense of the Patriots. If the Texans are not able to get more pressure on Tom Brady than last time, it could make for an even longer night for the road team considering the fact that the Patriots are finally completely healthy (especially Rob Gronkowski).
Now, the Patriots have had two weeks off and could get off to a slow start, so it will be crucial for the Texans to get on the scoreboard early and often. Which hasn’t been too much of a problem for the Texans, but doing it by the way of touchdowns, certainly has. At home against the Bengals defense last week the Texans had 420 yards of offense, yet only managed to score 1 lone TD. That won’t cut it when Tom Brady is on the other sideline.
Speaking of Tom Brady, now that the Broncos have lost, the Patriots have the ability to play at home until the Super Bowl. Not only that, but this will be the first game all year in which the Patriots offense will have both of their talented tight ends in the lineup. Based on Week 14, that means bad things for the Texans defense. The Patriots have averaged 35 points per game this year and have yet to be at full strength.
With all that being said, the Patriots defense will be the key today. This is a defense that struggled most of the year, yet somehow managed to continue and create turnovers and limit TD’s. In order for Texans to keep this one close, they will not be able to settle for field goals and they CANNOT turn the ball over.
I think the Texans know this though and I wouldn’t be surprised if they go for it on manageable 4th downs throughout the game, but I don’t see that being enough.
Had this game been in Texas, it could be a much different ballgame, but the way that the Texans just handed New England home field advantage could prove the Texans biggest mistake in this game.
In the end, the Texans are not designed for a shootout and I think that is what this will turn into. That combined with the fact that the Patriots are at home and will be able to run their no huddle offense extremely effectively makes it hard to think the Texans can pull of such a huge upset. I think the Texans could make it interesting early if the Patriots start slow, but the Patriots pull away in the end. Pats by 12.
Follow Cole Stevenson on Twitter: @Cole_Stevenson