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Texans-Patriots Preview: Five Things To Watch

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Here's your viewing guide for this Week Fourteen matchup, including five things to keep an eye on as the Texans take on the Patriots.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

I am 100% diametric to this Patriots-Texans game being moved to Sunday night. Why this game? Why can't they just let Houston get obliterated at noon? Why must they subject the rest of the world to this? Why must they pile on more prime-time misery against the Patriots? Why couldn't they just have made Steelers-Bengals the Sunday night game instead?

My brain is scarred when it comes to the Pats and Texans. Whenever I see a letterman jacket, I think of the 42-14 Monday Night Football blowout that was Step One of three that blew Houston's first round bye in 2012. When I gaze up at the sky and see a waxing crescent moon, I think of when I left work and saw the moon smiling at me after the Texans lost to New England in the 2012 divisional round game. These are memories that will never leave.  They will silently sit inside me until something like this props them back up. Welcome back, old horrors of the past.

Let's get on with it.

1.) Are the Patriots Reeling?

This is a perfect example of the problems with the weekly NFL schedule. The games happen on Sunday, and then we talk about them until next Sunday. To generate discussion throughout the week, insane theses like this are brought up. Yeah, losing two games in a row could be a sign for concern, except the first came on the road, without their best receiver, against the best defense in the NFL, where they lost after some ticky-tacky calls in overtime. In the Patriots' loss last week to the Eagles, it took three return touchdowns for Philadelphia to take them down. New England lost two weird games in a row.  It shouldn't be a cause for future concern.

2.) It Really Hurts

However, injuries are a problem for New England and every team in the league at this point. The Patriots lost Dion Lewis for the year after he tore his ACL. Julian Edelman broke his foot and out for tomorrow night's game. Rob Gronkowski is questionable with a knee injury.

At receiver, the Patriots' best options are Danny Amendola and Scott Chandler. Additionally, Damaris Johnson, and Keshawn Martin are seeing a significant amount of snaps. If you want to claim the Patriots are going to drop off, this is the reason why, not because they lost two games in a row.

As for Houston, J.J. Watt broke his hand in practice this week. Yeah, you can play football with a cast, but no matter what he says, it's going to hinder his play. A defensive lineman's ability to grab and knock an offensive lineman's hands off him is a vital part of shedding blocks. Watt has some of the best hands in the game, and with a thick chunk of plaster on one of them, it will have a negative impact no matter what the CLAW says.

Here's the thing: For Houston to win this game, they'll need to hold the Patriots to less than 21 points. It's possible with the injuries the Patriots have at receiver, but not probable. Without Watt playing in his usual form, this is going to make this task even more daunting.

3.) The Deep Ball

Quintin Demps is a liability on defense. He lacks the speed to cover the deep part of the field. He can't run with wide receivers. Buffalo completed a 53-yard pass to Sammy Watkins because Demps couldn't help over the top. Last week, Tyrod Taylor averaged 10 yards an attempt and 20 yards a completion.

The Patriots are known for attacking a team's biggest weakness. On Houston's defense, it's Demps and Vince Wilfork. New England will attack the deep part of the field against Houston. On passes that travel 16 yards or more, Tom Brady has completed 34 out of 80 of them for 1,062 yards, 4 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and 13.3 Y/A .

I guarantee you it's going to be like a 28-14 game in the fourth quarter. Keshawn Martin will run a seam route with Demps covering him, and Martin is going to torch Houston for a 65 yard touchdown.

4.) New England's Front Seven

The Patriots have a versatile front seven that uses eleven guys or so that move to different positions throughout the box. New England is able to run multiple fronts because these guys can play different positions. They'll run a 3-3-5, a 4-3 under, a 6-1-5, a 4-3-4, or a 0-0-11. They do it all.

This will come into play in this game because it messes with a quarterback's pre-snap reads. Against New England quarterbacks are never completely sure who's blitzing, or who's in coverage, or what coverage they're running. This is an issue for Brian Hoyer, who already has trouble holding onto the ball for too long as it is.

5.) Playoffs?

The most important thing is that this game isn't important. What matters for Houston is that they sweep the AFC South over their last three games. If they do, they will probably get in thanks to the fifth tiebreaker (the NFL should just use point differential as the second tiebreaker). If the scenario occurs where the Texans lose to New England and win out after that, and the Colts lose to Houston but win the remainder of their games, then the Texans have a 75% of making the playoffs. This is really good news if you get happy when the Texans win and sad when they lose.

Anyways, after losing to the Bills last week, Houston is a game behind Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and New York for the wild card, and Houston is tied at 6-6 with Buffalo. As a result, the Texans' probability to win the wild card has dropped from 5% to 0.4%. MUAH! Kiss the wild card goodbye. It was fun to dream about it while it lasted.

Here's the playoff probabilities, remaining schedule, and upcoming opponent for Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, New York, and Buffalo.

Team Playoff Odds Remaining Schedule Upcoming Opponent
HOU 46.2% -4.7% (23rd) New England (10-2)
IND 52.7% -13.2% (31st) Jacksonville (4-8)
KC 95.5% -11.1% (29th) San Diego (3-9)
PIT 50.3% 4.3% (8th) Cincinnati (10-2)
NYJ 35.2% -0.4% (16th) Tennessee (3-9)
BUF 16.6% -4.8% (24th) Philadelphia (5-7)

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