The Patriots are usually one of the most worrisome opponents on the Texans’ schedule. A long history of blowout losses at the hands of Tom Brady and company haunts Houston’s legacy. Through the past seven meetings, New England holds a 6-1 record over the Texans, making them appear nearly unbeatable. But this year has a different feel to it, and a victory in Foxborough seems like a real possibility. Here are the keys to a successful Thursday night game for the Texans:
1. Brock Osweiler and the Legion of Zoom need to be firing on all cylinders. Last week, Osweiler struggled with ball protection and threw a pair of interceptions. I understand that he is still adjusting to his role in Houston, and I’m not trying to demonize the guy, but he cannot do that against the Patriots tonight. New England will capitalize on every mistake that Osweiler makes, and it won’t be pretty. DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller will be huge factors in tonight’s potential win, as Houston finally has an offense to rival the Patriots’ slew of talent. Getting Lamar Miller and the run game going will also be hugely important, as Houston will need to keep their attack multi-faceted. Overall, if Osweiler can play safe football and spread the ball around, our offense should be able to take care of business.
2. J.J. Watt and company need to take advantage of whoever the Pats throw in at QB, probably rookie Jacoby Brisett. It’s his first NFL start, and the young QB will be facing off against one of the best defenses in the league. Jimmy Garoppolo may see playing time as well, depending on his injury, and WR Julian Edelman is the emergency QB on the roster. Houston’s defense has been awe-inspiring of late, so I’m not too worried about them getting after the QB and making big plays. I do feel kind of bad that Jacoby Brissett is going to get flattened by Watt in his first start though.
3. Rob Gronkowski may or may not be back tonight, but if he is, the Texans need to contain him. Gronk is consistently one of the best TE’s in the NFL, and he wreaks havoc on defenses. If he makes his season debut tonight, the Texans need to be prepared for one of the Patriots’ favorite weapons.
#Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring), who sat out the first 2 games, is a game-time decision. There's a real chance he makes his debut— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 22, 2016
4. Special teams needs to step up on both sides of the ball tonight. Last week, Kansas City almost returned a punt for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. I remember it very clearly because I nearly had several heart attacks as I waited for it to be called back for holding. Tonight, that opportunity cannot be given to New England. On the other side of the ball, Tyler Ervin put the Texans in bad field position several times last week, something that would best be avoided tonight. Ervin will need to take the occasional knee to give Houston the best shot at a win.
5. The devious Emperor, Head Coach Bill Belichick is a force to be reckoned with. I don’t care who he has in at QB, I don’t care who he has in at WR, the guy can coach talent from a rock. I hope that Bill O’Brien and his coaching staff can capitalize on their prior knowledge of the Patriots’ evil plans, and pull out some tricky plays of their own. Houston may not be able to out-coach New England, but they need to hold their own in this department to really have a chance at victory.
Tonight may very well be a preview of this season’s AFC Championship game. A win in Foxborough would cement the Texans’ prowess on a national stage, and give Osweiler and the Legion of Zoom will get a chance to showcase their potential with everyone watching. What do you think, Texans fans? What else does Houston need to do to pull off the win tonight?