|GAME TIME||1:00 PM ET|
The Patriots’ chances rest yet again on quarterback Tom Brady’s shoulders. The Texans’ defense is mostly the same as the one that gave Brady fits in the 2016 AFC Divisional Round matchup plus J.J. Watt, so Tom will have to be at the top of his game on Sunday. The Texans will likely dial up a lot of pressure up the middle to prevent the forty-year old from stepping up, and will also likely flood the middle of the field to force him to throw downfield. The Chiefs were able to successfully hinder Brady by doing similar things two weeks ago, so it will be interesting to see how much the offensive has progressed since then.
Despite a good defensive showing against the Patriots’ in last years AFC Division Round, Brock Osweiler ultimately threw away the Texans’ hopes of winning that game. Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson will thus need to have a good performance and keep the Patriots’ offense off the field if the Texans are to win this game. The Patriots will try to challenge Watson by throwing some disguised zone coverages at him and by containing him the pocket, so he will need to stay in the pocket and pick apart the Patriots defense in order for the Texans to walk out of Gillette Stadium victorious.
GAME PREVIEW AND ANALYSIS
The Patriots will face a test at home when they go up against J.J. Watt and the Texans’ powerful pass rush on Sunday. Defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel will no doubt look to challenge the Patriots’ interior offensive linemen and send pressure up the middle to prevent Tom Brady from stepping up in the pocket. The Texans will also likely flood the middle of the field, so Brady’s chemistry with his receivers will be tested as he takes some deep shots as plays break down. Julian Edelman was his go-to guy for those throws during last year’s playoff matchup, so it will be interesting to see how the targets are distributed this week.
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots’ defense will need to avoid giving up big plays both on the ground and in the air. They will challenge Deshaun Watson’s mental expertise by making him pick apart their zone coverages. However, they cannot afford to sell out too much to stop the pass as the former Clemson Tiger can also make plays with his feet. The game will probably look like the Patriots’ Week 7 matchup with the Steelers’ last year, when defensive coordinator Matt Patricia dared Landry Jones to make plays with his arm against zone coverage. The game will ultimately come down to how the offenses perform, and because of this, I give the Patriots’ the edge.
Prediction: New England Patriots 30, Houston Texans 20