On Sunday, the Houston Texans exorcised the demons of two 2015 nightmare losses to the Kansas City Chiefs. Tonight, the Texans have the unique opportunity to put other past nightmares behind them as they travel to their personal multi-murder scene - Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
All signs point toward the Patriots starting rookie Jacoby Brissett over fill-in phenom Jimmy Garoppolo, who got splattered against the Miami Dolphins last weekend, injuring the AC joint in his shoulder.
Let’s get to it and see how the BRB staff envisions this one going down.
Tim: Texans 17, Patriots 16.
If they were playing a team coached by anyone other than Bill Belichick, I'd pick the Texans to win by double-digits. A rookie third-string quarterback making his first start? On a short week? Against a fearsome defense? It's a game the Texans should win, and win handily.
But Belichick. Oh, Belichick. He's just so freaking good at what he does. The best ever.
Thing is, I believe the Texans have enough weapons on offense to get the job done. Belichick has become the greatest coach in NFL history by repeatedly taking away the one thing the opposing team does the best. With the Texans, if you do that, I still think they can beat you. Take away DeAndre Hopkins, and there's Will Fuller. Take away Will Fuller, and there's DeAndre Hopkins. Take away the Texans' passing game, and there's Lamar Miller. Houston has options. Although they've had some rough moments running the ball over the first two weeks of the season, I don't think they're one-dimensional. If Brock Osweiler can limit his mistakes (no small order against the Patriots), the Texans' offense can do this.
Add in that I expect the defense to get to Jacoby Brissett, and I'm predicting the narrowest of Texans wins.
Chris HDH: Patriots 13, Texans 10.
File this one under “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Similar to how the Texans were finally able to solve their issues with Travis Kelce last week against the Chiefs, I’m in wait-and-see mode with Houston visiting Foxborough. Honestly, I don’t really care who their quarterback is. Bill Belichick is a wizard and he will be challenged to creatively create advantages for the Patriots, assuming Jimmy Garoppolo is not going to play. I think Bill O’Brien has proved already he is a plus head coach, but I truly believe Belichick is in a class by himself, even with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time at his side.
I look for another low-scoring affair and a late field goal by New England to win the game.
Mike Bullock: Texans 22, Patriots 19.
Just as last week's game was ugly, I expect this one to be mistake-filled as well. New England has managed to get the jump on a solid Cardinals team and a not-so-good Dolphins unit. But this week, they play arguably the strongest Houston team in history - a team that isn't knocking off the preseason rust like Arizona was or struggling to figure out who they are with a new coach and new system like Miami is.
Houston will run one in, catch another, kick a pair of field goals, and J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus will combine for a safety. New England will have one fluke return for six, then kick four field goals but miss the fifth to tie the game as time expires. Finally, Bill O'Brien will be able to tell his Gronk-loving buddies back home that his team got it done.
BattleRedCoat: Texans 27, Patriots 12.
Jacoby Brissett is obviously someone New England has confidence in; otherwise they wouldn't have spent a third round pick on him when they didn't really need to. But a rookie in his first start, on Thursday Night Football, against one of the league's best defenses? It's not going to be pretty. I don't think it's unreasonable to think New England will have four or so scoring drives and just like us in the first two weeks of the season, struggle once they get to the red zone and end up settling for four field goals.
I'm hoping the Texans’ offense can get it together this week. If the Dolphins can put up 24 points last week, I'm hopeful we can do at least that, if not better. If we can go with a turnover-free game, get four good scoring drives again, and this time perform in the red zone, then why not 27 points?
Capt. Ron: Texans 24, Patriots 9.
Houston's defense is rolling strong and will limit New England to three field goals. The Texans' offense has been inconsistent through the first two games of the regular season with so many young and new players still coming together and learning the system. I suspect we'll see this inconsistency during parts of this tilt against the Patriots, and perhaps through the first five games of the season before things settle down. That being said, Houston will notch a commanding performance against an opponent who is missing far too many key players.
BFMF’nD: Texans 20, Patriots 13.
With it increasingly looking like we'll be facing Jacoby Brisket as the QB of the Patriots, I believe this game now tilts in our favor. I simply believe the Texans' defense will absolutely smoke Brisket.
Offensively, I believe the Sith Lord will force Brock Osweiler to beat the Patriots through the air. As Big Matt and I discussed on BRR, it's likely this is the first time a team will adjust to Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins. I wouldn't be surprised to see a bracketing on both WRs, making Brock either force throws - which he's shown a penchant to do - or check down.
In the end, I see this as a defensive battle the Texans win.
Brett Kollmann: Texans 17, Patriots 10.
I know that this game's script seems to set up a huge blowout in Houston's favor, what with all of the injuries and suspensions that New England is having to endure right now. I still think this will be a close contest. The Patriots’ defense is legit, and Josh McDaniels always finds a way to at least get some points on the board, regardless of who is on the field. I feel like this game will be tied at 10-10 late in the fourth before DeAndre Hopkins comes down with the winning touchdown.
Matt Weston: Patriots 17, Texans 9.
Like Kansas City, I don't see Houston beating New England, no matter who the quarterback is. They could sign T.J. Yates an hour before the game begins and I still would take NE, simply because it's not something I expect to see happen until it actually happens.
In this game, I think Bellichick will outcoach Bill O'Brien. They will play either Cover 3 or put both safeties over the top to bracket Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins, forcing Brock Osweiler to throw short to those who have yet to contribute (Stephen Anderson, Ryan Griffin, etc.), with the occasional dump-offs to the backs. So far, Osweiler hasn't been good with ball placement and decision-making on these type of throws. The deep ball has made up for it, but with that potentially being taken away, I don't like Osweiler in this game.
Houston will still play great defense, but Osweiler's mistakes and the atrocious red zone offense will hamper them in this one.
Luke Beggs: Texans 14, Patriots 9.
If any other QB but a rookie whose only seen limited snaps was playing this game, I'd take the Pats and Darth Bill, but I refuse to believe this defense can be beaten by an offense which is missing its starting TE and its starting QBs. I wanted to call this game for the Pats so badly, but I'm turning into Mulder from “The X Files.” I want to believe.
MDC: Texans 17, Patriots 0.
I am buying what the Texans' D is selling, especially when you're talking about something called Jacoby Brissett making a start in prime time. The Texans' offense, however, worries me in a game like this -- like Sam, I'm still not sold on Osweiler. All the same, I think they do enough to win, with the offense putting up 10 points, and the D adding a score for good measure.
Uprooted Texan: Texans 21, Patriots 17.
I think this will be the first game where we really see Brock Osweiler tested. Because you know Belichick, who we have yet to prove is not related to Marshal Tito, is going to take away the best part of our offense, in this case, DeAndre Hopkins. Even at that, the Texans still have enough weapons on offense, which still feels kind of funny to say after the last two years, to be a credible threat. I also think Romeo Crennel is going to do the same and bottle up LaGarrette Blount, forcing third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to make throws he hasn't had to before.
And, while I don't want anybody to get hurt on the field, there is a part of me that would love to see Julian Edelman at quarterback.
All that leads to a victory, albeit not a comfortable one. Texans win it late.
TexansTakeaway: Texans 24, Patriots 17.
I really, truly liked Jacoby Brissett going into this year's draft. The kid is talented, and since Bill Belichick seems capable of coaching greatness (or at least perceived talent) from bumbling baby antelope (see: Matt Cassel, Ryan Mallet, Brian Hoyer), Brissett won't be as bad as your typical first-start rookie. The Patriots still have plenty of weapons, even without Tom Brady.
Houston's offense needs to show up big time this week, and Brock Osweiler will be the major component to tip the scales. He has plenty of offensive playmakers at his disposal and should be able to pull out a win if he protects the football (that’s still a big "if" in my book). It will be Houston's defense that wins this game. They've been exceptional the past few weeks and will only get better as J.J. Watt continues to get healthier. Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney, and Benardrick McKinney will be too much for the Pats' rookie QB, and Texans will get the win.
kdentify: Texans 17, Patriots 13.
If this were Garropolo, I'd have the Patriots winning, simply because I think he's had more time to learn the offense and can do more of what BB wants. His injury, though, throws a wrench in things. I'm still not overly confident in the Texans, simply because OB (Godsey) can make some bone-headed decisions at times, and Osweiler has shown that he can make little mistakes that end up as INTs, which the Patriots could then exploit.
I'm choosing to trust RAC and believe that this might finally be the occasion where HOU goes into NE and comes out with a victory (of course, if this game were at NRG, I'd definitely think this was a win for our side).
Looks like the bulk of the staff see it going Houston’s way. Feel free to share your thoughts on Thursday night’s outcome in the comments below!