By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots are coming off of a 23-16 away victory against the the Miami Dolphins which saw the Patriots clinch the AFC East. The Pats will be returning home for a huge Monday Night match-up with the Houston Texans.
WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live Monday on ESPN at 8:30 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
GAME NOTES: The Texans are coming off of a 24-10 away victory against the Tennessee Titans. The visitors are currently 11-1, and arguably the best team in the NFL. Houston is a very tough opponent, and I expect to see a very tight game.
On defense, the Texans have one of the best units in all of the NFL this season. Their rush defense is ranked second, as they are only giving up 87.6 yards per game. On top of that statistic, their defense is ranked sixth in points allowed giving up only 18.4 points per game.
On defense, they have a player that could have consideration for the league MVP, and that is Defensive End J.J. Watt. He already has 16.5 sacks this season, and also has 60 tackles. He has the ability to take over a game, and the Patriots need to make sure he is limited in the damage that he does in this match-up.
On offense, you have to start with their exceptional running back who is Arian Foster, and he already has 1102 yards this season. Foster is also a threat in the passing game as he has 30 receptions. This player is a complete back, and the Patriots need to contain him as best as possible.
Matt Schaub is the quarterback, and he is very solid, as he can make all the throws while leading his team down the field. His main threat in the passing game is Andre Johnson, who already has 74 receptions for 1114 yards.
The Patriots are playing against an opponent who is really a complete football team on both sides of the ball. This is going to be a huge challenge for the home team, but I feel the Pats will be ready for this game.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
1. The Patriots defense needs to contain Arian Foster in the running and and passing game. Foster is a complete back, and it is imperative that the Patriots front seven keeps him in check. If they can limit his touches in the running game, it could make the play action game less effective.
The Patriots defense however must look out for Foster when he gets in space in the passing game. Being able to contain Foster could be the most important key of the game.
2. The Patriots defense needs to contain tight end Owen Daniels. As stated earlier, the play action passing game is a huge part of the offense for the Texans. It is imperative that the defense knows where Daniels is at all times, as he already has 50 receptions this season.
3.The Patriots offensive line needs to contain J.J. Watt. This player is a game changer, and whether he is double teamed often or not, the Patriots need to find a way to not let him take over a game. The Patriots have usually been able to effectively game-plan for an exceptional defensive player, and they will have to make Watt a priority Monday Night.
4. The screen game needs to be part of the offense against the Texans. When you play an aggressive defense, one of the best ways to deal with that type of defense, is the screen game. Whether it is Wes Welker with a wide receiver screen or someone like Shane Vereen out of the backfield, I think this could be an effective strategy against the Texans defense.
5. The Hurry Up Offense should be used early and often to get up on the Texans. This was a key last week, and I really believe should be part of the offense this week. I think it is important to get up on the Texans early and play from ahead. This style of offense can help in that result.
Also, when the Patriots played the Broncos early in the year, the “hurry up” really did a number on that aggressive defense, and could do the same with the Texans. It can tire them out very quickly if used early and often.
The Texans are a very tough opponent, and I expect a game that could go down to the very end. However, in this match-up with so much on the line, I see the Patriots holding on. I think their experience in big games could make the slight difference when the game is decided. I am predicting a 21-17 Patriots victory against The Texans.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.
Also, please feel free to listen to a preview of the upcoming game from the radio show Patriots Fourth And Two.