I was thrilled to see Houston win the game if ONLY from to hopefully end the Denver thread and rid the the board of all those Bronco wackos. There were a few good Bronco fans, but they were few and far between. I guess this would also be a good time to welcome back the well mannered Texan fans who, by and large impressed most of us with their football knowledge, reasonableness, and their willingness to talk football instead of smack. OK lets go 1. The biggest over riding question: Ever since the end of the first game against the Texans, I have been wondering, if the 2 teams meet in the playoffs how Wade Phillips will play the Pats the 2nd time around. As we watched the Cinci game, we saw the Texan Defense playing its normal game. Which consists basically of an attacking front 7, that will alternatively blitz and cover, and tight man coverage from the CB's and at least one of the safeties. In other words what we saw today on TV was pretty much what we saw a few weeks ago in Foxboro. Well Wade didn't get to last in the league THIS long because he was an idiot (though we might get an argument from some Bills fans, who, btw, haven't been able to improve on him since he was fired). He came to Foxboro, the first time and played "his" game, the style that got him to 11-1, and was crushed. With JJ Watt playing as good a game as he can, the Pats laid on 42 points on what was then the best defense in the league, and it could have been worse What I can't wait to see is if Wade tries something different. Will he pull a Rex Ryan and do a 180 away from his basic philosophy and will the Pats see more match up zone coverages, 4 man rushes and some max coverage schemes like we saw from Rex that fateful night in January of 2011. OR will Wade decide to simply "stay with what got him here", and see if his aggressive, all or nothing style will work if they just execute it better, now that they have seen the Pats offense up close, and are more familiar with what they do. I'd be very interested to see what the Texan fans think Wade will do. They've seen him close up for the last 2 years and will probably have a better feel for what will happen. Personally I think if he tries what we saw the last time, it will be even worse than the last time now that Gronk is back and the OL is healthier. (assuming the OL really IS healthier). I think the Texans' only chance next week is if Wade is willing to channel his inner Rex and create a strategy that will completely catch the Pats offense off guard for at least a half Well only time will tell, but at least the discussion should be interesting. 2. The Key Match Ups: The Pats D against the Houston O A. Overview: The Texans have a balanced offense but its still runs best when they pass off of play action. Adrian Foster is their key offensive force and can hurt you both in the run and passing game. Don't forget, though while the Pats bottled up Foster for the most part the Texans STILL rushed for 100 yds (though 40 game on 2 carries). and he ran for over 130 today against a very hot Cinci D. The next key guy is Andre Johnson. He is their go to receiver, and in the 3 games I've seen in the last month or so,(Pats, Colts, Cinci) everyone knew it and he STILL gets open. Just an awesome receiver. The 3rd key guy is the TE Owen Daniels. The Pats did a pretty good job on him the first time around, but TE's have been problematic for the Pats most of the season, and Daniels is a good one an generally one of Schaub's favorite targets (9 for 91 today) Finally there is Matt Schaub. He'll be routinely dismissed here and pretty much everywhere else as a 'not ready for primetime player'. But he DID manage 250 yds against us the first time. He moved the ball a few times well between the 20's, and had another 260 yds against a very good Cinci Defense. Don't sleep on Matt Schaub. He's a much better CB than Mark Sanchez,. and HE put up 330 against us with no weapons close to what Schaub has. Just say'in. The Strategy: Usually with BB coached team, playing a team the 2nd time around is generally an advantage for us. Assuming everyone will be healthy, I can see us being a little more aggressive this time around, continuing a pattern we've started to see the last few games. I would suspect that Talib will be locked on to Johnson with a little help from Gregory. I can see Chung being locked on to Foster (8 catches today, btw) in nickel coverages. He is NOT a guy I want to see matched up with a LB in the open field. I'm wondering who BB will put on Daniels in the nickel package. It will kill me to see that same old PAP, thrown to the TE 18 yds in the seam pass, completed. I don't care about the consequences I want at least THAT damned pass pattern stopped. Overall this could be a big game for Patrick Chung, especially after 2nd down. It could be a slow game for Spikes, because I see him pulled anytime it isn't first and 10 or the Texans are in a short yardage situation. I want to see Chung, not Spikes, on Foster on screens and wheel routes. And Chung is tough enough to play inside, and it keeps him out of the deeper coverages that get him in trouble. Our DL should see improved play this time around. Jones was a non factor in the game (only about 20 snaps ), and IIRC, in his first game back from injury. On Patriots All Access BB said he felt the Miami game was Jones' best all around game of the season. Now that is what I call GOOD news. We aren't sure about Ninko, but at least there is a chance, Cunningham didn't play the first game, and Scott has been coming on. on the inside, Deadrick or Love, that is the question. Deadrick has been getting more snaps lately, but I think Love is stouter against the run - The Houston OL could be the best OL we will see (the other is Denver's) But they still couldn't move Vince, and they will be challenged more this time with more complex schemes and looks. B. The Pats O vs the Texan D 1. Remember "where's Waldo", well the game for the Pats this week is gonna be "where's Watt". I think Wade will try and move him around, all across the front 4 this week. He's a bad match up one on one for ANY of the Pats OLmen, and if he plays in just one spot, the Pats will be able to scheme a way to stop him. Wade HAS to move him.\, ergo the Pats have to find him and adjust. Last time he had no sacks, no deflections, no tackles for losses. It was the ONLY time this season that happened. That's kind of an amazing stat since he was clearly the most impactful and disruptive DLman we've seen all season. THAT's how good he is. We can statistically shut him out, and he still leaves us saying "Wow". The Pats will have to find Watt and not let him take over the game like he did today. The good news is that the Pats OL is light years better than the Bengals' OL. and hopefully healthier. Maybe even healthy enough they they all won't be on the injury report this week. 2. Houston's back end plays hard tight man to man coverage. They can be very effective if the refs "let them play". Personally I don't care. If they call it the same way for both sides. in fact, I'd prefer they "let them play". Last time they made a concerted effort to shut down Wes Welker, and they did, if you consider 3 for 53 and one drawn holding call being shut out. But they couldn't stop Hernandez 8 catches and Lloyd 7 for 90 - Add Gronk to the mix and Wade's match up problems are multiplied. It will impossible for him double Wes, and come close to cover the other 3 plus the RB's. I look for Wes to have a bigger day. Last time the Pats rushing attack was decent ( around 130 yds). After watching BJGE rush for 66yds in just 11 carries, 2 thoughts game to mind. WTF is wrong with Cinci's coaching staff not to give Benny more carries, and I think Cinci showed the Pats that there might be a chance do more running than we did last time.(29 rushes) I'd like to think if we rush it 30 times next week, we can do better than 130 yds by the group. Special Teams - We have one of the better coverage special teams in the league. Its going probably be the late game, and its going to be cold. The ball won't carry as much and there will be returnable KO's We are going to have to continue to be as good as we have all season, because a special teams score is one of the few ways they can leave with a win. the same goes for the punt coverage. Turn overs - We don't need a TO advantage, but we DO need TO equity. We can't have a SF situation happen again. Coaching - I think this is a bad match up for the Texans (but I admit I may be a bit biased) - Its not that Kubiak is an idiot, but he's not BB, and he doesn't have the playoff experience. He's still coaching not to lose, and that's not what it will take to win the game. Like I said in the beginning. The key match up is going to be what Wade Philips comes up with to try and stop the Pats offense, and how quickly and how well the Pats adjust to it. If he does the same old, same old, then Texan fans aren't going to be happy with the results. I will be brief with my final comment, because the Pats go into most games with the biggest Match up advantage of them all, and that is at QB, and if none of other factors existed, and all the rest of the Match Ups went in Houston's favor, the Pats would still have a better than average chance, because TFB is our QB. OK that should be enough to start the conversation. Let the war of words begin.