New England Patriots vs Houston Texans: 5 Matchups to Watch
By Hal Bent
New England cornerback Malcolm Butler vs Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins
As good as Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye has been, New England cornerback Malcolm Butler has been almost as good. In fact, considering Butler is often matching up against an opponent’s top receiver with little safety help, he may be even better.
Butler shook off an early season ankle injury to land fourth on ProFootballFocus.com’s cornerback rankings. Butler has four interceptions and 16 passes defended. More than that, he has taken on every top wide receiver and shown an incredible compete level. Butler never gives up on a play and shows excellent technique keeping his hands off a defender while maintaining position.
DeAndre Hopkins is easily one of the most athletic and talented wide receivers in the NFL. He has amazing body control on the sidelines. He has elite level speed. He can leap out of the stadium. He understands route concepts and runs precise routes from anywhere he lines up. He has great hands and pulls in passes many would be unable to get a hand on.
Unfortunately, he has been limited by not having a solid number two wide receiver and poor quarterback play. Hopkins still finished with 78 receptions for 954 yards in what looks like an off-season. Most of the blame has to go to quarterback Brock Osweiler and the lack of development of young receivers Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, and Jaelen Strong.
In Week 3 Butler and the New England secondary handled Hopkins allowing just four catches on eight targets for 56 yards (two of those catches were defended by Logan Ryan and one was just a ridiculous grab on the sidelines).
Houston needs a big game from Hopkins just to stay in the game and stay close with the New England offense. Without an elite quarterback and facing elite talent in the New England secondary, it could be another tough go for Hopkins.