December 10, 2012

Patriots, Texans should be AFC Championship preview

The Texans have a lot of weapons but JJ Watt is the biggest and baddest of them all.

Houston Texans (11-1) @ New England Patriots (9-3)

The Texans have the best team in the NFL right now, especially with the Falcons loss today.  The Texans have an offense filled with weapons, and a defense that can harass quarterbacks and stop the run.  The Patriots are less balanced, because of their inconsistent defense, but they do not lack talent on either side of the ball.  If these two teams ended up in the AFC Championship, I don't think anyone would be upset with the level of play. 

Things to Watch this week:

JJ Watt as a disruptive force

Watt, above, has been an absolute beast coming off the edge, up the middle, and batting down passes that he has to be a guy that Tom Brady and the lineman find on every play.  This is what Bill Belichick had to say about him:
“He’s the most disruptive player in the league, certainly that we’ve seen,” Belichick. “He’s really good at everything. He’s got great quickness, length and instincts. He’s got a high motor, a variety of moves and he’s hard to knock off his feet. He makes plays at the point of attack and from behind.
“Wade’s (Phillips) done a good job of putting him in positions where he can make plays. You don’t know exactly where he’s going to line up. He’s not the easiest guy to zero in on, and even when you do zero in on him, he’s still a hard guy to handle.” --Houston Chronicle
Belichick couldn't heap much more praise on a guy than he did when talking about Watt.  Watt deserves all of the accolades because he has been incredible.  So far in his second season Watt has 16.5 sacks and has knocked down an amazing 15 passes (by comparison, Devin McCourty has 11). Each lineman will be on the lookout for him, but Nate Solder should see him more than anyone else.  Can the big tackle slow down the defensive player of the year candidate? The answer could lead to which team wins.

Houston's shaky secondary

The Texans top cover corner, Jonathan Joseph, might not play on Monday and if he does he will not be at full strength.  Last week the Texans D only surrendered 10 points to the Titans, but in the two week previous to that, the Texans allowed a total of 68 points.  If the Texans can pressure Brady, then the secondary will have less to worry about, but if the pressure is negated by the Patriots, the Texans will be in trouble.  Their 19th ranked pass defense will be put to the test much of the night even though the Patriots will be without Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.  If the Patriots face a lot of pressure watch the Patriots return to their effective screen game to take advantage of the aggressive Texans

Injury relief for Pats?

Could this be the week that Logan Mankins and Chandler Jones make it back on the field? That is exactly what the experts think. Mankins' return would mean the most for this game because of the prowess of the defensive line of the Texans.  His biggest chance to make a difference could be his and the line's ability to open holes for the Pats backs.  Mankins is also a leader and as many have talked about before, he  brings a little bit of nasty to the team.  

Jones' return could mean that the Patriots could have a little more of a pass rush when they need it most.  Matt Schaub has a bunch of weapons especially All-World Andre Johnson, that he must be hurried and harassed all night.  The rookie has provided 6 sacks and forced 3 fumbles from his end spot.  Although the rumor is currently that these two guys will play, the Patriots have still listed them and 11 other players as questionable including Patrick Chung, Aaron Hernandez, and Wes Welker. Injury Report

Prediction

I have picked the Patriots to win every game this season and that trend will continue because I truly believe they will win this home game. The Patriots are great at home and are especially tough in December.  The Texans have Arian Foster, Johnson, Schaub, Watt, etc. but they don't have a great secondary which will turn out to be their undoing.  The Patriots are hitting their stride and should be able to win a close one at Gillette.  Brady, Welker, and Hernandez will have huge games, but the most important aspect to the Patriots offense will be Stevan Ridley.  Banging Ridley into the line could tire the defense and take a little off their ferocious pass rush.  Most people are saying that the Patriots defense is poor, which they can be but lately they have had the ability to slow down other teams by causing turnovers.  Patriots 34, Texans 27


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