Derick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports

Patriots vs. Texans preview: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction

Ryan Hannable
September 23, 2017 - 12:00 pm

For the fourth time in just over a year, including the preseason, the Patriots and Texans will play a game against each other.

The two sides are very familiar with one another, as there are several ties on the Houston coaching staff to New England and Bill Belichick — Bill O’Brien, Romeo Crennel, Mike Vrabel, Larry Izzo and Wes Welker.

In the two previous games that counted, the Patriots have won both and outscored the Texans 68-28 in those games.

Houston will surely be fired up for this one considering what has happened in the past, but its offense has been a disaster this year and its defense can only carry the team so much.

Texans vs. Patriots
Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017
1:00 p.m., CBS
Patriots -14, over/under 44

3 keys to the game

Giving Tom Brady enough time to throw

For the Patriots offense, the biggest key will be protecting Tom Brady against likely the best pass rush it will see all season. Houston has J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Bernardrick McKinney and Jadeveon Clowney, so they can come at the Patriots in all sorts of different ways. In the past it has had some success up the middle, but with Marcus Cannon questionable, perhaps Houston would be more inclined to load up on the left side of the defense and go after Brady that way. LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming would be the options to play in Cannon’s place at right tackle and haven't been stellar so far dating back to the summer. Without Julian Edelman, Brady’s options when it comes to the short, quick passes are limited. One thing to note is Houston took these passes away in the playoff game last year, so Brady and the offense took more chances down the field and hit on some big plays.

Forcing turnovers

Houston’s offense isn’t very good, as it is led by rookie Deshaun Watson. Although it didn’t have any turnovers Week 2 against the Bengals, it had four in Week 1 against the Jaguars (Tom Savage started this game). Dating back to last season, Houston has turned the ball over in 17 out of its last 19 games and forcing a turnover or two would certainly help the Patriots’ cause. Watson is at his best on the run, so if the Patriots can keep him in the pocket and force him to make some decisions, they could take advantage with some bad throws. With how good the Houston defense is, getting a few turnovers could be a good thing for the Patriots offense.

Getting Chris Hogan/Brandin Cooks going

In the two games so far this season, Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks have a combined 11 catches for 211 yards and a touchdown. These two were viewed as the players to make the most impact in the passing game with Edelman lost for the year, but it just hasn’t been there thus far this season. If Houston attempts to eliminate the middle of the field, these two players could be in for big days on the outside. One thing worth noting is although Cooks’ numbers haven’t been there, he has drawn a few pass interference penalties, which should be noted even if it isn’t showing up on the stat sheet.

Fun facts

1. The Texans have gone 31 consecutive games, including the playoffs, without allowing a quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards.

2. No rookie quarterback has been able to beat Belichick at home since he took over the Patriots in 2000. They are 0-8 with five touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a 50.7 passer rating.

3. Brady has lost back-to-back home games in the regular season just twice in his career (2002 and 2006). For Belichick, just three times (2002, 2006, 2008).

4. The Patriots are on pace for 104 passing plays over 20 yards this year. Last year they had just 56.

5. Since 2001 in the regular season, the Patriots are 132-10 when winning the turnover battle. 


Patriots 27, Texans 14

No matter how good the Texans defense is, we just can’t see it being enough to beat the Patriots. The New England offense is so good that it is going to be able to score, although maybe just not as much as last week against the Saints. Houston’s offense on the other hand is brutal, having totaled just 20 points in the first two games of the season. The Patriots should win handedly, although from this perspective take the Texans with the points — 14 points is a ton with how good Houston’s defense is.

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