The New England Patriots will have plenty to watch for on Monday Night Football when taking on the Houston Texans, and they will have to keep an especially close eye out for the Texans talent on defense.
1. DE J.J. Watt
The name pretty much says it all. Watt is the best pass rusher in the game right now, and he does have an MVP case to be made. I wouldn’t dream of picking him over Tom Brady, but that’s also because I wouldn’t pick Peyton Manning or anyone else over Brady this season. Watt has been extraordinary, and he actually leads the team with 15 passes defended. Fun fact, no safety has more passes defended than Watt and only five cornerbacks have surpassed that total.
The statistics WPA and EPA are slanted towards offensive players- especially quarterbacks. However, Watt’s 2.28 WPA would actually rank him 13th among quarterbacks and his 92.9 EPA tenth among players at the NFL’s most valued position.
18 sacks, 32 QB hits, and 27 tackles for loss. Those are ridiculous numbers.
2. DE Antonio Smith
Another excellent pass rusher, Smith has followed up his breakout 2011 season with six sacks and 11 QB hits so far this season. Throw in five tackles for loss and a few tips, and you get a solid defensive end who will cause some problems for the New England Patriots offense. Six sacks is a high mark for a 3-4 DE, and Smith isn’t done yet.
3. CB Jonathan Joseph
One of the best cornerbacks in the game, Jonathan Joseph’s health will be a key for the Texans in this game. Currently listed as a game-time decision, Joseph is a hard-hitting, shutdown corner. Although he was clearly better in his first season with the team in 2011, he has still been solid this year and would likely keep Brandon Lloyd relatively quiet. Kareem Jackson has greatly improved this season with 12 passes defended. However, the Texans are much better at stopping No. 1 receivers than No. 2 receivers, and that is a testament to Joseph’s ability. The Texans inability to cover receivers in the slot, however, will leave them very vulnerable against Wes Welker.
4. LB Connor Barwin
The best of the healthy linebackers on the Texans, Barwin is an underrated pass rusher who has already hit the quarterback 14 times this season. A solid run defender, he has made several successful plays and has been the most valuable linebacker on the team this season.
5. S Danieal Manning
Joseph and Manning were two terrific signings last season for a Texans secondary that sorely needed DBs of their caliber. Manning is a terrific coverage safety, and he has forced three fumbles and picked off two passes this season. With seven passes defended, it’s no wonder why teams don’t like throwing it in his direction. Manning is a huge reason why the Texans are one of the best teams in the league at defending tight ends.
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