Sunday Night Football here at the Houston Texans host the New England Patriots. The Patriots are 10-1 and once again running away with the AFC East, while the Texans are locked in a tight battle for the AFC South. Oddsmakers have the Patriots as a road favorite of about a field goal for this one, which will be nationally televised on NBC.
The Patriots have once again have been dominant this season, and they enter this one with only one loss. That being said they have faced a fairly easy schedule, and this will be one of their toughest tests. The defense has been magnificent, but Tom Brady has quietly struggled the past few weeks. It'll be interesting to see how he rebounds here.
The Texans picked up a huge win over the Colts in their most recent game, giving them a one-game edge in the AFC South. Houston has a reputation for coming up short in big games under Bill O'Brien, and they will look to get that monkey off their back in this one. O'Brien is a former Bill Belichick disciple, so he'll be going up against his former boss here.
Brady Declining?The Patriots are once again one of the best teams in the league, and they entered this one with a 10-1 record. They're obviously going to win the AFC East yet again, and they will almost certainly have a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Unlike in most years, however, the offense hasn't done much. The defense has been carrying them all season, and Tom Brady is having one of the worst years of his career. Given what we've seen so far this season, it's fair to wonder if the Brady decline that we've all been waiting for might finally be materializing. He's averaging only 6.7 yards per attempt on the season, and things have gotten particularly bad the past couple of weeks.
In each of his last two games, he has averaged 5.1 yards per attempt or fewer. New England was the beneficiary of an extremely easy schedule to start the season, with games against the Dolphins, Jets, Redskins, and Giants. In their first tough road test of the season, they got beat soundly by the Ravens. Another interesting thing to note is that there is currently a flu bug going through the Patriots' locker room. A bunch of defensive players missed practice early in the week with the illness, and it's certainly something to keep an eye on. The defense has still been elite overall, but they showed in their loss to the Ravens that they are susceptible to dynamic quarterbacks. I'm very interested to see how they'll defend Deshaun Watson here.
Texans Need This OneThe Texans could really use a win here. They've had a reputation for folding under the spotlight in big games under Bill O'Brien, and a victory would go a long way toward putting that behind them. They picked up a huge victory over the Colts last week on Thursday Night Football to pick up a one-game lead over Indy in the AFC South, but could easily give that game back with a loss here. O'Brien is a former Patriots assistant coach, and he has struggled mightily against his former team while with Houston. The Texans got embarrassed by the Ravens a couple of weeks ago, but other than that they've looked pretty good recently.
e defense, and particularly the secondary has been an issue all year long. They've had a rash of injuries to their cornerbacks, and that will be the key to this game. Luckily for them, Brady has been struggling, but I'm still a bit worried about the back-half. As such, getting pressure on Brady to ensure he can't get anything downfield will be crucial. They're without star pass-rusher J.J. Watt, but they've still been able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Deshaun Watson has been excellent when he has time to throw, and he's going to need some help from his offensive line here. If he has time I think he'll be able to have success even against this tough New England secondary, as he has an impressive group of weapons. Will Fuller, Deandre Hopkins, and Kenny Stills are right up there with any receiving trio across the league.
Trends, courtesy of Covers.com: Texans are:
- 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 games following a ATS loss
- 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games after allowing more than 150 yards rushing in their previous game
- 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games in Week 13