A 2016-17 AFC Divisional rematch in Week 3 is quite an interesting pairing. In the past year the Houston Texans and Patriots have clashed on three separate occasions prior to Sunday. The Patriots won two of these games in this short series, but each victory has been on separate terms. In a 2016 Week 3 match-up Jacoby Brissett and LeGarrette Blount brought the Brady-less Patriots to a shutout victory. The Texans and Patriots squared up again in the Divisional Round of the 2016-17 playoffs, where Dion Lewis and Tom Brady were the offensive heroes that brought home a win. And this season the Patriots and Texans played in the preseason and Deshaun Watson secured a decisive win for the Texans.
This upcoming battle will showcase current CFB Playoff MVP Deshaun Watson against prevailing Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. Watson became the starter for the Texans in the second half against the team’s loss against the Jaguars recently. Since then, Watson has racked up a modest 227 yards along with one touchdown and an interception. Texans Coach Bill O’Brien’s offensive game plan in the foreseeable future is to develop Watson as fast a possible. However, Coach Bill Belichick, a friend of O’Brien, is aware of that and will bring defensive pressure on Watson quickly.
Stopping the Texans’ Offense
The Texans run a balanced offense consisting of short and medium passes along with a few different types of run plays. Deshaun Watson is a west coast-schemed quarterback, meaning he likes to throw short slant, curl, and dig routes to receivers. At the same time, he has the skills to tuck and run with the football by himself, as advertised by him against the Patriots in the preseason. For a rookie, Watson has showcased some impressive pocket presence, and knows how to roll out of the pocket to keep the play alive rather than giving himself up for a sack.
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Deshaun Watson is able to use an receiving corp that has undergone an overhaul to suit the team. The top receiver on the squad is DeAndre Hopkins, a deep threat who runs primarily fly and cross routes. Will Fuller V is the go-to guy when passing short or medium over the middle of the defense. Ryan Griffin, the team’s primary tight end, mostly pass blocks or runs short routes like a curl off the line. Lamar Miller, the workhorse of the offense, is a one-cut back who can punish the defense on a wheel route.
Expect Bill Belichick to stop the Texans’ offense at the source. The Patriots’ edge rushers and linebackers must step up this week to keep constant pressure on Deshaun Watson. Blitzes and quarterback contain plays will keep Watson in the pocket and make a naive mistake against the Patriots’ secondary.
Tackling the Texan’s Stingy Defense
The Patriots offense redeemed themselves last week against the New Orleans Saints after getting blasted by the Kansas City Chiefs in week one. However, the Saints defense statistically let up a lot of points, and in the last three years they are ranked 30th+ points allowed. The Texans’ defense is on the other end of the spectrum, ranking within the top-five defenses in the league. Stacked on the defensive line the Texans at full strength boast the talents of J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney. This defense makes up for a weak secondary by bringing constant pressure to the opposing quarterback and stopping the run.
With an ailing offense and now Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola being among the eleven players questionable to play this week, the offense needs to be cautious. Therefore screen passes to Mike Gillislee and James White will work like a charm. Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen are both vertical threats that can shred up the Texans’ secondary. Tom Brady on average takes about 2.5 seconds to drop back and get the ball out of his hands. Statistics show as his career has progressed, Brady has become increasingly accurate after passing the ball that quickly. This skill will come in handy against an aggressive Texans’ defensive line. The pass rush will be frequent in this game for the Patriots offense. The offensive line and the rest of the offense can still shine if everyone does their job.