The Houston Texans travel to New England to take on the Patriots on Saturday night in the AFC Divisional round. The Patriots come in as a 16-point favorite and its worth noting that its only the 4th time in league history that a spread has opened up as high as 16 points and that the favorite has covered in all previous instances. The Texans are coming off a wild card round win over the Oakland Raiders while the Patriots had a first round bye and will be well rested for the prime time matchup.
The Texans had quarterback issues last season and thought they had them solved when they signed Brock Osweiler to a 72 million dollar contract. He proceeded to have a disappointing regular season and was even benched in favor of backup Tom Savage. He regained his starting job for the Wild Card round and was effective in throwing for a touchdown and rushing for another while not turning the ball over. It may require more than just “managing the game” to be able to put enough points on the board to defeat this Patriots. The Raiders were playing with their third string quarterback who made his NFL starting debut due to injuries. This certainly gave the Texans the edge defensively and they turned that into 3 interceptions in a game that was never close. Texans Coach (and former Patriot’s offensive coordinator) Bill Obrien will need to find a way to get production out of an offense that has had to rely on its defense all season long. Getting a running game going with Lamar Miller would open up opportunities in the passing game for Osweiler. The defense is amongst the best on the league in most categories and they will need to have a vintage performance against the high powered Patriot offense.
The Patriots have had two weeks to rest and a week to prepare specifically for the Texans. The Patriots defense tends to adjust to the opponent and attacks whatever the perceived weakness is. You can expect them to be be aggressive against the run and force the Texans to try and beat them with the pass. On offense this may be the teams most versatile group since they had a motivated Randy Moss. Quarterback Tom Brady had another magnificent season throwing only 2 interceptions on the season and earning MVP support despite missing 2 games. Late season signing Michael Floyd wasn’t involved much during the regular season but has had several weeks to get acclimated to the playoffs, don’t be surprised if Brady targets the veteran receiver early and often.
Clearly the Texans have a monumental task on their hands. To win the game would require a perfect storm of slowing down a dominate Patriots offense while also fixing and finding ways to score with their own historically poor offense. As one of the top 4 underdogs in playoff history they are essentially playing with nothing to lose. This weekend will tell if that is a good thing or bad thing.
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