3. Exploit the Texans’ porous pass defense
The Houston Texans have the league’s 25th-best passing defense… or in other words, the eighth-worst passing defense. Among teams with winning records at this point in the season, only the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks have allowed more passing yards per game than the Houston Texans.
This is a problem for Houston as it sets its sights on making some noise this postseason. For years, the Texans had a phenomenal defense and a suboptimal offense that was usually dragged down by poor quarterback play. Now, the Texans offense is one of the better units in the NFL and its their defense that leaves a lot to be desired.
Top cornerback Bradley Roby hasn’t played in weeks, and he’s currently questionable to make his return from a hamstring injury against the Patriots on Sunday. Fellow corners Gareon Conley (hip) and Lonnie Johnson Jr. (ankle) are also questionable to play versus New England, leaving veteran Jonathan Joseph alone atop the Texans depth chart in terms of healthy starters as of this writing.
Ex-Patriot Keion Crossen is also on the Texans cornerback depth chart, as is Vernon Hargreaves III, but neither one of them has made much of an impact this year for Houston. The Texans’ safeties are all healthy at least if you’re a Houston fan.
If ever there was an ideal time for the New England offense to shake off its season-long malaise and spring into form, it might be this week against this weak Texans defense. Houston is slightly better against the run, but even there they only rank 17th in the NFL in rush yards allowed per game.
Especially with Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu expected to return to the passing game for the Patriots, it makes sense for coordinator Josh McDaniels and quarterback Tom Brady to hit the Texans with everything they’ve got on Sunday night. If the Pats can start fast and start strong by scoring a touchdown or two early on, it might break the spirit of the Houston defense for the remainder of the game.
Keep in mind – this is a unit that no longer has spirited leaders like J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney on the field making plays.