Patriots vs. Texans: 4 Matchups To Watch


Here are four matchups to watch tomorrow night as the Patriots take on the Texans.

1. J.J. Watt vs. Pats OL

J.J. Watt is probably the best defensive player in the NFL right now (although he is still incredibly overrated), and even though he will be dealing with a broken hand tomorrow, he is still a force to be reckoned with. Watt can play all four spots along the defensive line, so every single Patriots offensive lineman will have to work against him. Guard Josh Kline has been limited in practice this week with a shoulder injury, so if he is out, New England will have two rookies at the guard spots protecting Brady from Watt (Tre’ Jackson, Shaq Mason). Not ideal.

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2. DeAndre Hopkins vs. Malcolm Butler

Hopkins has emerged as a legit top-5 receiver in the league this year, and I think we will see Malcolm Butler shadow him for a good portion of this contest. I certainly don’t think Butler can completely shut Hopkins down, but I do think he can limit him, particularly if the Pats pass rush can show up and get to Brian Hoyer early and often. Butler shut down Odell Beckham earlier this season, although I actually think Hopkins is better than OBJ is, so this will be a tough challenge for Butler. The only player Butler has really had trouble with this season was Eric Decker, and that was because he was simply much bigger than Butler. Hopkins is still a big dude (6’1), but Decker has at least three inches on Hopkins, so I don’t think Hopkins will just be able to body Butler all game long. This should be a great matchup.

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3. Johnathan Joseph vs. Brandon LaFell

If Rob Gronkowski can’t play once again this week, the Patriots will be counting on Brandon LaFell to have a big bounce-back game on the outside. Danny Amendola will produce from the slot, but if this offense wants to score against one of the best defenses in the league this week, they need LaFell to snap out of the funk he has been in. Look for Josh McDaniels to get LaFell involved early with some easy screens and slants, and hopefully that will open up LaFell later down the field and on the sidelines. He needs to take some of the pressure off of Amendola and company in the middle of the field.

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4. James White vs. Houston LB’s

Probably the only silver lining from last week’s loss to the Eagles was the emergence of James White in the passing game. The Patriots have been waiting for someone to replace Dion Lewis as the receiving back in this offense, and I think White is the answer. The former Wisconsin star is very good at making people miss once he has the ball in his hands, but his speed and quickness is also too much for most linebackers to handle in coverage, making him a good mismatch for Tom Brady to exploit when he drops back to throw. I think we will see White utilized quite a bit in the passing game tomorrow night.