What to Watch For: Texans vs. Patriots
Sunday, September 24, 2017
The two teams conducted joint practices together during training camp and then played a preseason game against each other in Houston. The Texans won that game 27-23.
"We've played them a bunch the last few years, practicing against them and kind of knowing their staff. They run similar systems, offensively and defensive and special teams. They have a very tough, hard-nosed team," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady earlier this week.
Patriots safety Devin McCourty added, "We went back and watched some of that and tried to kind of mesh it all together with the Cincinnati game and really the second half of the Jacksonville game where he was in there, try to draw some comparisons and see what's similar, what's a little different."
Kick off is set for 1 p.m.
Patriots vs. Texans
The Patriots and Texans have met nine times in their history with the Patriots holding a 8-1 record against Houston.
New England's only loss against Houston was in the final game of the 2009 regular-season when Houston beat the Patriots 34-27.
The Patriots had already clinched the division prior to that game and Tom Brady was taken out for parts of that game by then backup Brian Hoyer.
Last season, the Patriots and Texans played two times with New England taking a 27-0 win on September 22 behind third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The Patriots then took 34-16 win in the Divisional Playoffs en route to winning the Super Bowl.
Both of those games were played at Gillette Stadium.
SEE WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN THE SLIDESHOW BELOW
Related Slideshow: 5 Things to Watch For: Texans vs. Patriots
Malcolm Butler did not start last week against the Saints after starting every game over the last two seasons for the Patriots. Eric Rowe made the start over him.
Butler is set to enter free agency at the end of this season and rumors of the Patriots phasing him out began to circulate. Butler was involved in a contract dispute in the offseason in which the Patriots did not give him a long-term deal, instead, they signed him to a one year tender worth $3.91 million.
"There've been times when I've been through a lot of stuff man. I made it through that and I made it to the National Football League. If I can handle that and make it to the NFL then I can put my mind together to make it past this situation. Just gotta perform better. It's still early, but need a sense of urgency and we'll see that," said Butler during his media availability this week.
When Butler did get into the game, he allowed four catches on five targets for 40 yards and a touchdown.
"I haven't been performing at the level that I should be performing at. I gotta do whatever I gotta do to help the team. Whatever role that I get, I got a job to do so I gotta do it. Just gotta keep grinding, keep working hard," Butler added.
When asked if he is starting this week, he said "I'm playing like it, though. I'm practicing like it. I'll be ready. It starts at practice."
The Patriots offensive line will need to be high alert this week going up against the Texans defensive front that includes J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney.
"J.J. is an incredible player. Then you pair him with Whitney Mercilus, who’s one of the most underrated players, I think, in the league in terms of rushing the passer to everything that he does to help that team. I know practicing against that guy how good he is. And then with Jadeveon Clowney, he’s one of the most athletic guys in the league. He does some things that other people can’t do," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Houston was fourth in the NFL in yards per attempt last season (5.83), second in passing yards allowed per game (201), first in first downs allowed per game (17) and second in completion percentage against (58.68).
Against the Texans last season, Brady had a completion percentage of 47.37 - the lowest in his playoff career.
That was with a full complement of wide receivers.
The Texans come into the game with only one wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins and a rookie quarterback in DeShaun Watson meaning they will rely on running back Lamar Miller early and often in this game.
Watson proved last week against Cincinnati that he can make plays with his feet as well, rushing seven times for 83 yards and a touchdown in Texans win.
"If we don't keep him in the pocket and try to surround him as much as possible - on a play like he had against Cincinnati, it is not just a one-time thing or like some great play. He has that where he can do that at any moment and any game and can do it multiple times," said Patriots safety Devin McCourty.
Houston's other wide receiver is former Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.
Wide receiver Danny Amendola said he is good to go and is expected to play on Sunday after suffering a concussion in the Patriots season opener against Kansas City.
Amendola's return gives the Patriots offense an option in the slot and in the punt and kick return game.
Given his injury history, it will be interesting to see how much he gets used and when they use him.
Rob Gronkowski also said that he is ready to go.
Wide receiver Brandin Cooks has not gotten off to the start that most expected this season, especially after what he showed in training camp.
In two games, Cooks has five catches for 125 yards.
This week, the Patriots face a Texans secondary is without cornerback, Kevin Johnson, who is out with an MCL injury. Thier other cornerback, Jonathan Joseph, is playing with a shoulder injury.
If the Patriots offensive line can hold up, Cooks could have a big day.
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