Before kickoff with the Patriots tonight, I go behind enemy lines with Musket Fire for some insight on the Pats. You can read my answers here, but here is the word from Nick Ziegler on New England:
1.)The Patriots won convincingly in the first meeting this season while starting Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. How will the game plan for this one be different with Tom Brady under center?
The Patriots were focused on running the ball in the first game without Tom Brady. Even though many expected the Patriots to run the ball less when he returned, they have kept a balanced attack on offense. I would expect to see plenty of Blount on Saturday night like in the first meeting.
2.)The running game with LeGarrette Blount has been very productive this season. Is that a function of Blount, the offensive line that was much maligned last season, or both?
It’s been a bit of both. Coming into the season the Patriots’ offensive line was one of the big question marks. Throughout the season, they have been a unit that has improved and have helped protect Brady and also provide good running lanes for Blount. Even though the offensive line has been very good, credit also has to go to Blount. He was able to set the single-season record for rushing touchdowns in a season, as it has been a career-year for him as well.
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3.)The Patriots had the top scoring defense in the NFL with just 250 points allowed all season. What made that unit so good?
The Patriots’ defense has really been playing well since the loss to the Seattle Seahawks at about the mid-way point in the season. With Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty both playing at extremely high levels in the secondary, their defense has become surprisingly good this season. In addition to improving in man coverage, Butler has been a playmaker for the defense in what has been a fantastic season.
4.)The Patriots are one of the most sound teams in the league and have very few weaknesses. What is one area of vulnerability that might go somewhat overlooked that the Texans might be able to exploit?
Even though the Patriots’ defense has been very good, they do struggle to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They rank in the middle of the league in team sacks, and that might be their biggest weakness this season. Trey Flowers will be a player to watch. He has come out of nowhere this season to emerge as the best pass-rusher on the team. If the Texans shut him down, the Patriots might not get much pressure on Osweiler.
5.)What is your predicted score?
With the Patriots being such big favorites, not many are giving the Texans much of a chance. Even though the Texans looked pretty good against the Raiders, I’ll be looking at the bigger body of work. It’s hard to imagine them being able to contain the Patriots’ offense, and also score on a much-improved defense.
Prediction: Texans 13 Patriots 30