The Watt Factor: Offensive Line To Be Tested

Christine Roy
December 07, 2012 at 10:45pm ET

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It's no secret Houston's J.J. Watt is a candidate for defensive player of the year. It's only his second season in the league and his improvement is already quite obvious. He's improved his sack total from 5.5 in 2011 to 16.5 through 12 games this season. He has 60 combined tackles so far compared to 56 in all of last year. A year of experience under his belt has clearly done him some good and now it's the Patriots' turn to try and keep him away from their quarterback.

Nate Solder and the entire offensive line are going to have to adjust to handle the pressure J.J. Watt brings. (FILE:USPresswire)

The Texans are riding a six game winning streak, two of which came in overtime. In his past three games, Watt has sacked the quarterback six times. Three of those were on Detroit's Matt Stafford and that's not because they have a terrible offensive line. The Lions tie for 11th in the league giving up 25 sacks this season. Watt has just found a way in his previous games this season to get off the line quick and beat his counterpart on the offensive line.

And in addition to his sacks, Watt has also been stuffing offenses across the league. He has stuffed opponents 14 times this season for a total of 35 yards lost. Last week versus Tennessee he stuffed the Titans three times. He's good at the line and also can get his arms up and defend a pass when he is in the position to. This season he has defended 15 passes, five of which came in the past three games. As the season draws closer to playoffs, Watt is not slowing down and the Patriots better be ready.

Watt is the Texan's left defensive end and that means he will be lined up against Sebastian Vollmer. Last week especially the offensive line struggled to protect Tom Brady and this week will be no easy task. Their biggest key this week will be to adjust to the pressure from Watt and create opportunities to get first downs. The Texans have only given their opponents 205 first downs this season, that is good enough for third best in the league. The Patriots on the other hand have gotten 334 first downs this season, which puts them atop the league. The same matchup appears when it comes to third down as well. The Patriots are top in the league in converting them, the Texans are top in the league in stopping them. Something will have to give come Monday night.

Watt will be the key for the Texans and the Patriots offensive line will once again be center stage. He is on a tear this season and shows no signs of slowing down. It will be interesting to see who the Patriots put out on the line and how they adjust to the pressure. This will be a good test for them as next week when San Francisco comes to town, they'll be up against Aldon Smith who leads the league in sacks. The playoffs are closing in and sitting as the second seed in the AFC it is crucial for the Patriots to get a win on MNF and secure a bye to buy some time to get healthy.