The last time they played:
We all know how it went down. I don't want to put myself through that pain by re-watching the game tape. But there are some very interesting BRB-flavored post-game reads you can review.
How New England finished the season:
|2011||Off Yds / G||Off. Pts / G||Def Yds / Game||Def Pts / Game|
|2012||Off Yds / G||Off. Pts / G||Def Yds / Game||Def Pts / Game|
Above, I've included New England's numbers from 2011 as well as 2012. It's impressive that a team can improve on both sides of the ball from one year to the next, especially when they're already near the top on one side. A marked improvement on defensive yards and points allowed coupled with their top-ranked offense made the Patriots a force to be reckoned with.
You'll notice they're tied for 9th in points allowed; care to guess with whom? Your Houston Texans.
With Tom Brady at the helm, the Patriots have always been a threat passing the ball, and 2012 was no different with 291 passing yards per game, good for 4th in the league. But the Patriots achieved the blissful nirvana of complete offensive balance with 136.5 rushing yards per game (7th in the league) after ranking 20th in 2011. A large part of that is thanks to running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen who were both taken by the Pats in 2011. Read more about the duo here:
While they do share a position in title, Vereen and Ridley are vastly different types of players with vastly different skill sets. Vereen runs east to west, but can be a big factor in the receiving game. Ridley runs north to south, but can slash outside and into the open.
For all intents and purposes, this isn't a "backfield by commitee." Ridley is the feature back. He's the one who should garner 20 attempts per game and all the goal line carries. Nonetheless, Vereen's abilities as a change-of-pace back should coincide with Ridley's workload. His prowess in the draw game, as well as his personnel mismatch when lined up out wide, help keep defenses on their heels.
The increased effectiveness running the ball led to an even more effective play action game for the Patriots. This chart by Football Outsiders tracks play-action DVOA (explained here) of all 32 teams. Take a close look at NE vs HOU. Both teams used PA at the same rate, but New England notched a 34% higher DVOA than Houston. That stings. The Patriots beat us at our own game. Now you can see why the Texans bit so hard on play fakes like this one.
Of course the Patriots still notched a 55.2% DVOA on passes with no play-action. It's still Tom Brady-Bündchen taking snaps, after all.
And to make matters worse, Wade Phillips has a terrible history versus Bill Belichick's Patriots. A Phillips-coached team hasn't beaten the Patriots since 2005. This is a trend that shows no sign of changing after the two dismal defensive performances of 2012.
What New England has done this offseason:
- 2 (52) - Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Mississippi
- 2 (59) - Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
- 3 (83) - Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
- 3 (91) - Duron Harmon, S, Rutgers
- 4 (102) - Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
- 7 (226) - Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois
- 7 (235) - Steve Beauharnais, ILB, Rutgers
- DT Tommy Kelly, April 9
- WR Michael Jenkins, March 28
- S Adrian Wilson, March 17
- KR Leon Washington, March 14
- WR Danny Amendola, March 13
- QB Tim Tebow, June 11
- WR Brandon Lloyd, March 17
- RB Danny Woodhead, March 15
- WR Wes Welker, March 13
- S Patrick Chung, March 12
- OG Donald Thomas, March 12
Who cares about Tim Tebow?
I'm looking at Aaron Dobson and Danny Amendola as new key contributors for 2013. Dobson probably isn't as fast as the departing Brandon Lloyd, but he's got great size, strength and hands. World's laziest opinion: Amendola should make the loss of Wes Welker easier to bare.
Tommy Kelly next to and backing up Vince Wilfork is pretty disconcerting to think about. Adrian Wilson looks like his best days are behind him, but he isn't expected to be "the guy" for the Patriots defense.
I'm curious to see what Pats fans think about their defense heading forward.
Toilet Paper prediction made in July of 2013: Patriots 38, Texans 27
I've been pretty optimistic in my previous articles, but I can already see the dark cloud looming over December 1, 2013.
"NFL" stands for "Not For Long" and the Texans certainly have plenty of time to change my mind, but until I see some significant deviations from the 2012 game plan, I'm dreading this game.
Hopefully, Ed Reed helps Phillips draft a better game plan other than blitz 5/man coverage straight across, because that clearly wasn't working. Phillips would be a fool to not take a look at the schemes used by the Baltimore Ravens to slow down Brady, because those have worked in the past.
Best reader prediction: Capt Ron
Do my job for me and produce a well-written analysis or prediction. Serious or funny. Using iambic pentameter or otherwise. The best one will get put up here.
Read more about our patriotic pals over at Pats Pulpit.
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Check out Weeks 1-13 of my season previews here.