Connor Fulton from MusketFire.com takes the time to give our readers some insight on the upcoming game between the Texans and the Patriots
Perhaps the best thing about writing for the FanSided Network is being able to get opinions and analysis from experts for every team in the NFL. This week the Houston Texans are ready to face the New England Patriots, and in advance of that meeting we reached out to Connor Fulton, who covers the Pats on Musket Fire.
Connor was kind enough to discuss his feelings on the game between the two teams.
RG: Reports have come out that Rob Gronkowski is practicing in a knee brace, but says he won’t play unless he is 100%. Do you think he’s going to suit up, or is he still a week or so from returning?
CF: I strongly doubt we will see Gronk play on Sunday night. He is simply too important in terms of the Patriots’ Super Bowl hopes to risk before reaching full health, and I doubt that pesky knee injury will be better in the next 24 hours. Expect Scott Chandler to receive the red zone targets that would otherwise go to Gronk.
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I’m hoping that Gronk will be clicking on all cylinders when the Patriots host the Tennessee Titans in Week 15. Against a weak Titans pass defense, Gronk should ease his way back into swing of things.
RG: How serious are the offensive line struggles for New England, and can they get fixed?
CF: They are worrying, that’s for sure. But on the whole, the offensive line has done a decent job this season, often playing with three rookies on the interior (Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason at guard, David Andrews at center). The unit has been exposed as of late due to the stagnant rushing attack. When defenses don’t have to account for LeGarrette Blount pounding them, they are able to key-in on Brady.
To answer the second part of the question, then, these issues can be fixed by the use of Blount early and often in Week 14. In addition, using James White on quick-hitting passes out of the backfield should slow the Houston pass rush and throw the offensive line a rope.
CF: I’m looking to White, as he caught 10 balls for 115 yards last week against Philly, indicating that the Patriots are confident in his pass catching ability out of the backfield. If White can be even three-fourths of the player Lewis was, the Patriots’ offense will be in good shape.
After White, LaFell has to take command on the outside. Drops have plagued his 2015 season since returning of the PUP list; he has to catch everything Brady throws his way, or honestly, he could find himself being released over the offseason.
CF: You nailed it, Randy. On other Sundays, I always pull for the Texans. In addition to O’Brien and Hoyer, former Patriots legend Mike Vrabel is the Texans’ linebackers coach, and then there’s Romeo Crennel of course. New Hampshire natives and UConn fans will remember tight end Ryan Griffin, who grew up a Patriots fan and is entering Week 14 looking to catch his third touchdown in as many games.
The list goes on and on. Post-game handshakes will be fun to watch regardless of the outcome.
RG: Taking out J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins, who is one player you would like to steal away from the Texans? (And to give credit where it is due, I did borrow this question from one you asked me first)
CF: I’ve got to go with Jonathan Joseph. The Patriots lack an experienced and accomplished veteran cornerback, as their longest-tenured is third-year man Logan Ryan. At age 31, Joseph has been playing lights-out this year having defended 16 passes, the sixth-most among all defensive players. In addition, Joseph ranks third on the team in tackles with 49, so it’s clear he’s been flying around the ball.
A one-two punch of Malcolm Butler and Joseph at cornerback would boost the Patriots’ pass defense, without a doubt. One can dream.
RG: How do you see this game playing out, and what is your prediction on the final score?
CF: In my bold predictions article for this game, I predicted that Watt will record a hat trick of sacks and Griffin will score a touchdown for the third straight game. Those will be the highlights of the night for Houston, as the Patriots will pick off Hoyer three times and both Keshawn Martin and Damaris Johnson will score against their former team. My final score is almost identical to yours, Randy–Patriots 31, Texans 14.
Here’s to a great game between two of the best teams the AFC has to offer. Thanks for the chat, Randy… you fellas do some great work here on Toro Times.
Thanks to Connor for his time! Anyone wanting to get some good perspective on this gam from the New England point of view, check out the great work done by Connor and the gang at Musket Fire!