The New England Patriots are set to face off against the team with the top record in the AFC tonight on Monday Night Football, and it will certainly be a battle in Foxborough between the Patriots and Houston Texans. What weak schedule? This game against the Texans means that the Patriots will have played against the three other top teams in the AFC, in addition to next week’s huge matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.
But let’s take it one game at a time. The Texans will be a staunch test for the Patriots, even in front of nearly 69,000 fans cheering for the Pats. Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden will make a for a great MNF tandem calling the game on NBC, and the game will also be broadcasted in Boston on ABC. 98.5 The Sports Hub and Dial Global Radio Sports (national radio) will also be showing the game via radio. Kevin Harlan, Boomer Esiason, and Mark Malone (sidelines) will make for a talented trio covering the game for Dial Global.
New England Patriots Pass Offense vs. Houston Texans Pass Defense
This part of the matchup is where the Patriots hold the most distinct advantage over the Texans. First, a comparison of the offenses. Matt Schaub is a great quarterback and one of the top ten signal-callers in the league for sore, but he’s nowhere near Tom Brady (at least the second best QB in the NFK, and he’s been the best this season).
Now looking at how the Patriots passing offense stacks up against the Texans pass defense, two huge pass-catching weapons are in for big games. Stanford Routt is an upgrade over Brice McCain, but there’s a reason why the Kansas City Chiefs cut him even after recently giving him a huge deal; he’s not that good. Wes Welker is going to light up whoever covers him, especially since Jonathan Joseph will be locked on Brandon Lloyd.
I hope Troy Brown’s words for Lloyd serve as big time motivation for the veteran receiver, but it might not be enough to get him going against one of the league’s top corners in Joseph. Aaron Hernandez will pick up the slack, and he was uncoverable against the Miami Dolphins. If Reshad Jones and Karlos Dansby couldn’t contain him, then I don’t see how the Texans incompetent ILBs and either Danieal Manning or Glover Quin can. Manning is a great coverage safety and Quin is also solid, but Hernandez splits out wide quite often as well and isn’t somebody Kareem Jackson will want to be covering either.
The most lopsided part of this matchup is the advantage J.J. Watt has on the right side of the Patriots offensive line. Sebastian Vollmer has been the best right tackle in the NFL this season, but he did not look anywhere near that level last week against Cameron Wake and the Dolphins. He’s clearly not healthy at the moment, and Watt holds and advantage over a banged up right side of the line that’s usually solid. If Dan Connolly and Vollmer are both healthy enough, then they can at least contain Watt.
Connor Barwin and Antonio Smith are also two top pass rushers to keep a close eye on for Houston.
Patriots Run Offense vs. Texans Run Defense
The Texans run defense is solid, but Stevan Ridley and Co. should have some success rushing against the Texans. The Patriots actually average more yards per carry than Arian Foster and Houston, and their run defense allows less yards per carry than Houston’s. Brandon Bolden is also back in the mix after serving his suspension, and it will be interesting to see how much he gets involved. I could actually see either Shane Vereen or Danny Woodhead breaking off a big gain. The best advantages that the Patriots hold rushing-wise are on the left side of the line with Logan Mankins back in the fold and up the middle with Ryan Wendell shoving guys at will.
Continue Reading for my thoughts on how the Houston Texans offense stacks up against the New England Patriots defense, as well as a final prediction of the game.