After a rough loss in Buffalo last week, the Houston Texans look to rebound at home against the New England Patriots on NBC's Sunday Night Football. It's Battle Red
Day Night at NRG Stadium, and the place should be as loud and hostile as it will be all season long.
As of now it's unclear whether Rob Gronkowski will play, but he did return to practice Thursday. Let's see how the BRB staff see this one going:
Chris - Patriots 27, Texans 24 (or a Texans win if Gronk doesn't play).
I so, so badly want to be wrong. I do think this defense has turned a corner, even with the hiccup last week. I also have to believe that because Gronk practiced on Thursday that he's probably going to play. Can one guy make that much of a difference? Generally I say no, but considering Tom Brady is already missing so many other weapons, I think it does. So yes, if Gronk miss the game, I've got the Texans in this one. But I think he plays and it's really tough to picture this Patriots team dropping three games in a row. (Please be wrong, please be wrong).
Brett Kollmann - w/Gronk: Patriots 35, Texans 10; without Gronk: Texans 20, Patriots 17.
Gronkowski is monumentally important for that offense, and I think his presence really does merit a near 20 point swing. Houston has nobody on the roster who can even get close to covering him one on one (healthy or not), so consider me among those who are rooting for him to sit this one out.
kdentify - w/regular Gronk: Patriots 45, Texans 21; without Gronk: Texans 27, Patriots 24.
The news broke that J.J. Watt has broken his left hand. This will affect him, regardless of his protestations to the contrary, and anything that hampers Watt hampers the Texans as a whole. With a fully healthy Watt and without Gronk, I had this pegged as a Texans victory in a close one. With an injured Watt and possibly with a Gronk who can at least operate at 50% capacity, this may end up a close Patriots victory. The key to this game is going to be whether Gronk can play and, if so, how effective he can be. If he's limited to being a regular TE, and not one of the best TEs in the history of the NFL, even with Watt injured, the Texans have a chance at winning this one, simply because Brady's available receiving corps is still learning the offense (so is ours, but at least our guys have been getting snaps all season). This is a game that's going to test the discipline of our defense. If our guys can master and complete their assignments, not give up stupid penalties, and get off the field on third downs, this game is winnable for us. The issue is that we made great strides towards disciplined football and rattled off four wins in a row, and then chose to travel to Buffalo in a game our coach said was essential for our playoff chances and commit ALL THE PENALTIES!!! We can't do that and win. We're not a good enough team to give the opponent extra plays and come out with a victory.
In short, I'd either like Gronk to focus on coming back healthy for their game against the Titans, or come back this week and be the Patriots' version of Garrett Graham.
Capt. Ron - Texans 27, Patriots 24.
Under ordinary circumstances, this game is difficult enough to call, but the uncertainty of Watt and Gronk makes this highly complex to predict. It's the NFL's best example of "an unstoppable force (Gronk) meets an immovable object (Watt)." Then again, Watt is also an unstoppable force. But I digress...
A fully-functioning Watt is is capable of influencing the death of at least five scoring drives for an opponent, with perhaps two resulting in field goals, limiting 35 potential points (5 touchdowns) into 6 points, for an individual point-swing impact value of 29 points.
A fully healthy Gronk can help the Patriots with at least as many opportunities the other direction by extending drives and scoring.
Neither is at 100%, but I'll take Watt's "force of will" over Gronk's. I'm also confident that the rest of the Houston team is ready to dig in and take their game to the next level.
All things considered--injuries, home field advantage, protege (O'Brien) v. former mentor (Belichick), Texans' statement game, Patriots' losing streak history, prime time, etc.--I'm going on the wild side.
Matt Weston - Texans 20, Patriots 31.
The sky is falling in New England after two losses in a row. The first came on the road, in overtime, against the best defense in the NFL. The second against Philadelphia saw the Patriots give up three return touchdowns. Both of these seem more like bad luck than the Patriots being anything less than one of the best teams in the AFC.
Houston is an average football team that survives on their top ten defense, a slogging ineffective running game, and lots of passes to DeAndre Hopkins. For the Texans to win this game, it's going to take the defense to hold the Patriots to 13 points.
New England's lowest scoring game this year is 20. They average 31.2 points scored a game. With Brandon Lafell, Keshawn Martin, Danny Amendola, Scott Chandler and Damaris Johnson at receiver, they scored 28 last week. It's possible this defense can hold them to 13, but it's highly unlikely and not something to expect.
Most of the predictions in this game will be based on if Gronk plays or not. It really doesn't matter. It's only going to affect the margin of victory, not the end result. The Patriots are better than the Texans. Never will I ever expect the Texans to beat the Patriots in primetime, or in the playoffs, until it actually happens.
Oh, and Keshawn Martin is definitely burning Quintin Demps for a touchdown in the middle part of the field in this game.
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