New England Patriots Keys vs. Houston Texans


Here are a few keys for the New England Patriots tomorrow versus the Houston Texans:

1. Running Game

The Texans have a solid defense, but they are surprisingly weak against the run, as they rank 21st in rushing yards allowed per game, and a measly 26th in yards per attempt. With Julian Edelman still out, and Rob Gronkowski‘s status in doubt, the Pats won’t have a lot of weapons to work with offensively, so running the ball should be a priority for them in this game. If Tom Brady drops back 50 times against this front seven without Gronk or Edelman, the end result will not be pretty. New England has to try and get LeGarrette Blount and James White going on the ground early, maybe not between the tackles, but on the outside and in space. That will give Brady more built-in protection, and it will open up some play action opportunities for Scott Chandler and company.

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2. Someone On The Outside Must Step Up

Looking solely at New England’s passing game, somebody on the outside must step up for Tom Brady. Edelman will not play, and for this article, I’m going to assume Gronk won’t either. That leaves the Pats with the same weapons as they had last week in their pathetic performance against Philly, so obviously something is going to have to change. The number one name that comes to mind has to be Brandon LaFell, not only because of how poorly he played last week, but because he has proven that he can play very well in this offense in the past. He has to get his head in the game, run sharp routes, and not drop the ball this week if the Pats want to make any kind of noise against the third best pass defense in the NFL.

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3. Hopkins vs. Butler

This should be one hell of a matchup to watch tomorrow night. DeAndre Hopkins has emerged as one of the best wide receivers this league has to offer. Hopkins is 3rd in the league in receiving yards, 4th in receptions, and tied for 3rd in touchdowns. He is big, fast, athletic, and has great hands as well, and when you put all of that together, you get a top five receiver in the NFL. I anticipate the Patriots will have Malcolm Butler shadow Hopkins (with safety help) for the majority of this game. Houston doesn’t really have any weapons that scare you outside of Hopkins, so if Butler can hold his own and not let Hopkins dominate, I like the Patriots’ chances on defense against Brian Hoyer and company.