Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots: Zach Cunningham is the x-factor

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 10: Blake Bortles
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 10: Blake Bortles /

Houston Texans’ rookie linebacker Zach Cunningham could be the difference between a win and a loss against the New England Patriots.

I’ve been saying all week that if the Houston Texans are going to have any chance at defeating the New England Patriots this Sunday up in Foxboro, they’re going to need their defense to carry them.

There has been some uncertainty this week as to whether or not Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski will play after suffering a groin injury against the New Orleans Saints last week.

Gronk told reporters on Friday that he will be playing against the Texans.

The Patriots have a lot of offensive weapons with Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and many others. But if the Texans are able to take Gronk out of the game, it will help them out tremendously.

The one player that give the Texans a chance at neutralizing Gronk is rookie linebacker Zach Cunningham, who has looked pretty good during his first two NFL games.

With a Pro Football Focus pass coverage grade of 81.6 against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, Cunningham proved that he can cover tight ends and running backs.

When Cunningham replaced an injured Brian Cushing in week one he finished the game with an overall grade of 82.1. So it’s obvious he belongs in the NFL and is worthy of being a starter week in and week out.

Facing off against Gronkowski will certainly be the biggest match-up of Cunningham’s young NFL career.

If Houston’s defensive playmakers like Jadeveon Clowney, J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus can all get after Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, it will make Cunningham’s life a lot easier.

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Comment below and tell us whether you think Cunningham can shut down Gronkowski.