The New England Patriots are coming off one of the most amazing wins in franchise history. The Houston Texans, just lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars. These two teams were expected to vie for the AFC championship this season, as both started the season with a lot of talent on both sides of the football. The Patriots have lived up to those expectations, currently trailing only the Broncos in the standings. The Texans on the other hand, have had a down year, as they come in with a 2-9 record. However I think that this game will end up being closer than the numbers indicate, especially with all the injuries that New England is dealing with.
Here are four players to watch, as this game unfolds.
1. Andre Johnson
Being a top receiver on a bad team can be frustrating (just ask Larry Fitzgerald). Despite having all of the skills to dominate the opposition, they fly under the radar, because of their teams’ performances. This is exactly the situation that Andre Johnson is in, as even though he is near the top of the league in all statistical categories, he isn’t getting the national recognition that he deserves. Johnson is fourth in the league in receiving yards, tied for third in receptions, and tied for eighth in receptions of over 20 yards. Aqib Talib and the Patriots secondary will have their hands full with Johnson tomorrow, making him a guy that will most likely end up with a big impact, on the outcome of this contest.
2. Stevan Ridley
After fumbling in back to back games, Ridley may not find himself on the football field very often in this one. Bill Belichick has a reputation for benching players that don’t do their job right, which is what happened to Ridley last week against Denver. But I think that New England needs Ridley in their offense to be successful come playoff time, and in order to do this, they have to get Ridley back in there as soon as possible. Houston’s defense is ranked number one in the league in total defense, but a surprising 22nd in rush defense. I think Ridley could really go off against the Texans, which could get him back on track, in time for the playoffs.
3. Chandler Jones
Jones was recently named ‘AFC Defensive Player Of The Month’, and deservedly so. Jones has put together a great 2013 campaign, showing why the Patriots drafted him in the first round in the 2012 draft. He has racked up 10.5 sacks thus far, and his improvement in the running game has been noticeable as well. I expect Tom Brady and the Patriots offense to put up some points in this one, which will force the Texans to throw the ball more often than they would like. This presents Jones with another good opportunity to showcase his skills, and possibly net a few more sacks.
4. J.J. Watt
How can you talk about the Texans without mentioning J.J. Watt? This guy is not only one of the best defensive players in the league, but he is one of the best overall players the NFL has to offer. He isn’t having the type of season that he had last year (only 9.5 sacks), but his impact is still there. His ability to rush the passer from the inside is really incredible, and when you combine that with his “swat skills”, he becomes a threat to slow down any offense in the league. The inside of the New England offensive line better be ready for this game, because if Watt isn’t contained, he could single-handedly make this recently explosive New England offense, seem pedestrian once again.