Patriots – Texans Divisional Playoffs, Keys to the Game

Steve Balestrieri
January 12, 2017 at 5:45 am ET

Prediction:
This is where we’re supposed to join in on the chorus forewarning you not to overlook the Texans and that they’re a different team than the unit that got ripped up in Week 3. We’re supposed to point to the 2010 Divisional game against the Jets where the Pats were shocked at home just about six weeks after demolishing the Jets in NY.

You can buy into that if you care to, but the bottom line is this. The Patriots are a much better team than Houston and a loss here would be a choke job of epic proportions.

Houston does have a good defense but they’ve faced teams that can run and faced ones that can pass, but they haven’t faced many that can do both as well as New England. The keys to the game from a Patriots perspective are:

Don’t Turn the Ball Over: Houston is a very limited offensive team, especially in the passing game. Don’t make their job any easier by handing them a short field and letting their offense get some easy points.

Start Quickly and Put Pressure on them to Keep Up: Brady and the Patriots have the ability to score quickly and often and getting off to a quick start is a great way of putting pressure on both Houston’s defense as well as their offense.

Stop Miller in the Running Game and Force the Ball into Osweiler’s Hands: This has been the Patriots M.O. for several weeks and they’ve held five of their final six opponents to under 75 yards rushing. If they make the Texans one-dimensional on offense, the battle is already half-won.

Look for the Patriots to try to keep the offense balanced but passing to set up the run this week. Brady will compensate for that pass rush by getting the ball out quickly to his short-area receivers, Edelman and Amendola to get the chains moving. Hogan and Floyd should have a big impact on this week’s game as they’ll chip away with the short stuff and look for them in the home run play. The backs and tight ends are key in not only pass protection but in creating mismatches as well.

The defense may opt to come after Osweiler, who although he has a depleted wide receiver position also got excellent protection last week against the well-heralded Oakland pass rush. Can Osweiler find lightning in a bottle two weeks in a row?

We say no. New England holds serve at home as Brady has a big game throwing the short stuff underneath setting up the big plays and the running game. The defense steps up, slows the running game down and forces Osweiler into making bad throws. Patriots 34-13

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