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What to Watch For: Texans vs Patriots

Sunday, September 09, 2018

 

James White

After an offseason of drama, and questions, New England Patriots are set to open their 2018-19 season on Sunday when they host the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium.

It will mark quarterback Tom Brady’s 19th season in the NFL.

“I’m really excited. I'm really excited. It's a blessing to be able to do it and I love playing football. I love the sport. I've been doing it for a long time, so I'm not sure what life would be like without it. I've had a few experiences where I haven't been out there and I haven't liked those very much. Hopefully, we can go out and start the season well. We're playing a really good team and they're going to test us in every phase. They're really well-coached, got some great players and that's really where my focus is,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his press conference on Friday.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick added, “We've put a lot of time into this game. I think the players have done a good job dealing with all of the multiples that the Texans present, which are considerable. I think everybody's looking forward to getting started.”

Game time is set for 1 p.m.

Patriots vs Texans

This will be the tenth all-time meeting between the Patriots and Texans, with New England leading the series 9-1.

In the most recent game between the two teams, the Patriots edged the Teams 36-33 last season when Brady hit Brandin Cooks in the corner of the end zone in the final minutes to give New England the win.

The only Texans victory in the series came in 2010, when Houston beat the Patriots 34-27 in Houston. That was the game that Wes Welker tore his ACL. 

 

Related Slideshow: 5 Things to Watch For: Texans vs Patriots - September 2018

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Wide Receivers

With Julian Edelman suspended, the Patriots enter the game with three wide receivers on the roster, Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Phillip Dorsett. 

Who will step up? 

"I have confidence in them certainly. You know, Phillip [Dorsett] and Chris [Hogan] have obviously played a lot. I've played a lot with them last year. And Cordarrelle's [Patterson] new and he's done some good things - obviously, it's the reason why he's here. He's a really good player and he's been productive in the league. To be on this team, you've got to be a good football player and, you know, the guys that are out there, I have certainly a lot of confidence in," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his press conference on Friday. 

Patterson is in his first season with the Patriots and did not see a ton of time with Brady in the preseason. Last year with Oakland, Patterson caught just 31 passes for 309 yards. 

He is mostly known for his kick return ability. 

Dorsett joined the Patriots just before the start of the 2017-18 season. 

He appears to have developed some trust with Brady after he caught four passes for 36 yards in the third preseason game against Carolina. 

Dorsett had 12 catches for 194 yards last season. 

Hogan is set to enter his third season with the Patriots after hauling in 34 passes for 439 yards and five touchdowns last season. 

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Offensive Line

The Patriots offensive line is in for a big challenge in week one. 

The Texans come in with one of the best front sevens in all of football with JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus. 

"They're all good players. They're different, but they're all very good, hard to block, they're athletic. They play with very good technique, they're well-coached. Obviously, Romeo does - a former defensive line coach. He's a great technique coach, very good fundamental coach - as good as any I've ever seen. So, that's the way they play, and yeah, they're all good," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his Wednesday press conference. 

For the Patriots, Marcus Cannon, who missed all of the preseason, will see a lot of J.J. Watt, while newcomer Trent Brown will see a lot of Mercilus. 

Joe Thuney will be primarily matched up with Clowney. 

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James White

With the Patriots offensive line in for a big challenge and the lack of depth at the wide receiver position, expect running back James White to have a big role in the offense, at least for the first month. 

White can both run and catch the ball out of the backfield, while also lining up as a receiver at times. 

Last season, White had 56 catches for 429 yards and three touchdowns, while carrying the ball 43 times for 171 yards. 

If the offensive line is having trouble holding up, expect alot of check down passes to White. 

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Hightower Returns

Sunday will mark the return of linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who missed most of last season with an injury. 

Hightower will be a key factor in the Patriots defense slowing down Houston's offense, led by Deshaun Watson. 

In Watson's last five starts, the Houston offense scored touchdowns on 75% of their red zone trips. 

"They have a lot of great players. They run the ball well. They have a great receiver, they have a very athletic quarterback, they have several other receivers, running backs, tight ends - [Bruce] Ellington, [Will] Fuller, obviously those guys. I mean, you just go right down the line - [Ryan] Griffin, [Lamar] Miller, [Tyler] Ervin, [Alfred] Blue. So, they have a lot of guys that score or can potentially score," said Belichick during his Friday press conference. 

The key for the Patriots defense is to keep Watson in the pocket and force him to throw. 

Along with Hightower, newcomers Adrian Clayborn and Danny Shelton will each of a big role in doing that. 

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Stephon Gilmore

Stephon Gilmore and the Patriots secondary will face one of the premier receivers in the league on Sunday when they go up against DeAndre Hopkins. 

Hopkins is coming off a season in which he recorded 96 catches for 1,378 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

Expect the Patriots to give Hopkins different looks in the secondary and also to play zone defense, especially if the front seven can't contain Watson. 

The good news for the Patriots is that the Texans three other top receivers are out with hamstring injuries.  

 
 

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