New England Patriots Pass Defense vs. Houston Texans Pass Offense
Matt Schaub‘s reputation as a top ten quarterback in this league has taken a hit since his putrid performance against the Patriots on Monday Night Football. Usually an extremely accurate quarterback, Schaub has thrown a high ratio of interceptions to touchdowns since Week 14 after rarely throwing a pick during the first 12 games of the regular season. He hasn’t looked the same, and that’s going to be a problem against a Patriots secondary that is better than some people give them credit for being.
Ever since the Aqib Talib trade, the Patriots secondary has actually played solid as a whole. Devin McCourty has been an elite safety, Kyle Arrington has improved in his comfortable role as a nickel corner, Aqib Talib has made an impact of his own on the outside, and Alfonzo Dennard has been excellent for a rookie corner. However, the Pats secondary can get burned and the linebackers aren’t the best in coverage. Jerod Mayo is much-improved and Brandon Spikes has made strides, but Spikes and rookie Dont’a Hightower are liabilities in pass coverage. The Pats have a difficult time against TEs and RBs in coverage, and Arian Foster has 40 receptions this season.
Owen Daniels is the second best receiving option on the Texans, but he was shut down in Week 14. That incredible effort from the Patriots pass defense might not happen again, and the Texans have a formidable trio of TEs that are all solid pass-catchers. Andre Johnson, however, is the only legitimate receiving threat on the Texans and was held in check for most of the game by Talib and Dennard. He had plenty of yards, but Johnson also averages 100 yards per game anyway.
Patriots Run Defense vs. Texans Run Offense
If you shut down Arian Foster, then the Houston Texans have an extremely low chance of winning. The Patriots vaunted run defense is well-equipped to stop Foster, because they shut him down in their last meeting. The Texans have run the ball with Foster a whopping 351 times this season, and their inability to set the tone with the running game against New England put a lot of pressure on Schaub to perform. With Daniels basically taken out of the game and the lack of other receivers there to step up, Schaub failed in that regard. Foster is extremely motivated and will do better, but it might not be enough the second time around.
That’ s sort of how I view this. The Texans will certainly be better in this game because they are a little bit healthier and have a lot of motivation going into this game, but they won’t do enough to close the 42-14 gap from the first time they played. I know teams that were blown out in the regular season are 7-4 in a playoff rematch and that previous games don’t mean too much when the playoffs come around, but I don’t think being “the team who wants it more” matters in a game like this. Every team wants to win, it’s freaking obvious. In this game, there is a clear talent disparity, a clear disparity in coaching ability, and then there’s the fact that one team has been playing way better than the other team and blew them out of the water the last time they matched up. The Texans called that MNF game the biggest game in their franchise’s history and still got destroyed. I think the Pats win this one 35-20, and I just can’t see the Texans winning this. If they do, then I’ll choke down my crow and cry myself to sleep. Seriously, the Pats will have to really lay an egg to lose this game, even if they are playing a top defense. Again, they put up 42 on these guys just a month ago.
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