This Monday night, two of the best teams in the AFC, and the NFL for that matter, will clash as the 11-1 Houston Texans take on the 9-3 New England Patriots. Who will be the victor; the reigning AFC champions as well as one of the top teams for more than a decade; or the new kid on the block trying to prove they belong with the elite?
The Texans defense had not played well before facing the Titans, where they forced 6 turnovers and had 6 sacks. Even though the Texans defense gave up over 300 yards passing to Jake Locker, the 6 turnovers proved to be too much for the Titans as the Texans won 24-10. Turnovers will be one of the key factors in their game against the Patriots. Tom Brady and Co. most likely will not be slowed down, but if the Texans defense can force turnovers they will be able to overcome giving up a lot of yards to the number one offense in the NFL.
Brice McCain was placed on injured reserve earlier this week, which is a huge loss for the defense. McCain is the Texans nickel corner, and he has had a great season, for the second straight season. He is the guy who normally covers the slot receiver on opposing offenses. The Patriots have a pretty good receiver in the slot named Wes Welker. With McCain going on injured reserve, the Texans signed Stanford Routt hoping that he can fill in for McCain. The Texans secondary is looking to get back to form with the addition of Routt, and Johnathan Joseph likely coming back from injury, and Kareem Jackson on the other side.
Another key factor for this game is the running game for the Texans. If they can get an early lead and control the time of possesion with their running game, like they love to do, they should be able to control the game. However, New England’s offense is one that can score at will. The Texans have a great offense as well, one that can win in a shootout as we witnessed against Jacksonville and Detroit. Houston’s offense averages the 2nd most points per game, scoring 29.2 points per contest. New England is number one, scoring 35.8 points per game. With the Patriots top flight offense, the Texans will not want to get in a shootout with them, and that is where the running game comes in. The Texans lead the NFL in time of posession, which means the more the Texans have the ball, the less Tom Brady has the ball. The less Brady has the ball, the less points New England can score. Easier said than done.
J.J. Watt vs Tom Brady: Can J.J. Watt disrupt Tom Brady enough to give the Texans defense an edge?
Stanford Routt vs. Wes Welker: Will the addition of Stanford Routt help the Texans slow down Wes Welker, one of the premier receivers in the NFL.
Arian Foster vs The Patriots Run Defense: The Patriots rank 9th in the NFL in run defense, allowing 100.8 yards per game.
Monday night will be a colossal match up for these two powerhouses. For the Texans, they can clinch the AFC South with a win here and an Indianapolis loss. For New England, a win here can bring them to within one game of taking the home field advantage from the Texans. Who will come out victorious; the proven veteran who have won multiple championships, or the newcomer looking for a championship of their own? Only Monday night will tell.