Divisional Round: Houston Texans At New England Patriots
- QuarterbackThe Texans got off the canvas after losing three of their last four regular-season games to beat the Bengals in the Wild-Card game. While Matt Schaub’s numbers were not bad, he did not look like a quarterback who could take his team on the road and come up with a win against the explosive Patriots. Earlier in the season, Schaub looked fearless. He no longer projects that image.Tom Brady had one of his best days of the season when the Patriots overwhelmed the Texans in New England during a Week 14 Monday night victory. Brady completed 21-of-35 passes for 296 yards and he threw 4 TD passes in that game. Brady believes he can have his way with the Texans’ secondary and he will attack that unit until he’s proven wrong.
- OffenseThe Texans had one of the most balanced offenses during the regular season, ranking seventh overall. Running back Arian Foster ran for 1,424 yards and 15 touchdowns. While he is a power back, he can break long plays as well. Wide receiver Andre Johnson caught 112 passes during the season and he is not going to drop many. TE Owen Daniel knows how to get open on third-down plays.It’s been another sensational season for the New England offense and while Brady will throw the ball all over the field, the Patriots have gotten a huge lift from running back Stevan Ridley. He has rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns. Wes Welker will catch anything that Brady throws his way and tight end Rob Gronkowski is a stellar big-play maker. Brandon Lloyd can make highlight-film type catches.
- DefenseThe numbers may not tell the story in this game since the Texans ranked 7th overall on defense and 7th against the run. However, they had no success against New England and Wade Phillips’ unit may not have a lot of confidence in this game. Defensive end J.J. Watt must have a huge game. He had 20.5 sacks and he batted down 16 passes this season.The Patriots rank 29th against the pass and they are vulnerable in that area, but they are much better than they were at the start of the season. The New England pass defense picked up after they acquired veteran cornerback Aqib Talib from Tampa Bay. Outside linebacker Jerod Mayo had a team-high 147 tackles and he also forced 4 fumbles.
- Special TeamsEven when the Texans were playing their best football, they were quite vulnerable on special teams. They have struggled with both punt and kickoff coverage. Placekicker Shayne Graham has had a good but not great season, making 31-of-38 FG attempts.Head coach Bill Belichick is confident in his special teams. Placekicker Stephen Gostkowski was decent this year, making 29-of-35 FG attempts. Punter Zoltan Mesko averaged 43.1 yards per punt and landed 28-of-60 inside the opponents’ 20.
The Texans were the best team in the AFC through the first half of the season, but they have lost their edge. The Patriots have perhaps the best QB-coach combination in the game in Brady and Belichick and it will take a complete reversal of fortune if the Texans are going to challenge the defending AFC champions.