Just a couple of weeks ago, the Houston Texans suffered a massive loss against the class of the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens. Houston recovered nicely as it put away a division foe, the Indianapolis Colts, on Thursday Night Football last week. Now the Texans face another Baltimore-like test as the New England Patriots come to town to square off in primetime on Sunday night.
The 10-1 Patriots may be the best team in the NFL with the most question marks swirling around it. We aren’t seeing the no-nonsense, put you away in the first half Patriots of old, but a new defensive-minded team that never goes away. Speaking of never going away, the Texans bunch has the offensive talent to stay in games with any team in the league but may face its greatest test in the Patriots defense Sunday night. New England is only favored by -3 in the contest, with an O/U of 45.5.
The Topsy-Turvy Patriots
In this season’s alternate dimension that we seem to live in, the heat has been on Tom Brady and the Patriots offense to improve. One could only assume that there isn’t a lot of reason to doubt the Patriots on either side of the ball, as they’re 10-1 and in the driver’s seat of the AFC East, per usual. However, over their last three games, the Patriots have only managed to put 50 combined points on the board, with 20 of those coming in a 37-20 loss to the Ravens just three weeks ago.
It’s been the Patriots defense that has kept them in command in the AFC East, posting wins when the offense has only mustered 13 and 17 in its previous two contests. The defense ranks second in opponents’ yards per game, passing yards per game, and first downs allowed. It also ranks ninth in the league in rushing yards per game allowed.
Led by linebacker Jamie Collins, who leads the team in both tackles and sacks, this Patriots defense is stout and one to be reckoned with.
Watson’s Coming-Out Party
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has been on a man on a mission this season. Since Houston lost J.J. Watt to injury for the season, Watson seems locked in on showing the NFL that the Texans have more than one superstar. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he gets to target superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins over 10 times per game.
Hopkins leads the team with 81 catches out of 112 targets this season. He’s put up 839 yards and is tied with tight end Darren Fells, bringing in six touchdowns. There is no corner in the league that stands a chance in single coverage against this machine.
Will Fuller, who has been limited in practice all week, isn’t a bad number two either. In his return from injury last week, Fuller caught seven balls for 140 yards. It’s pick your poison for the Patriots secondary.
Covering the Receivers, and the Spread
Houston hasn’t been great against the spread on the season, as it comes into the matchup just 5-6 against the line. The Patriots are 7-4 overall ATS and 4-2 on the road. This is the first time that the Texans have been the home underdog this season, but they are only 1-4 against the spread on their own turf. There are very few rules I abide by when gambling on the NFL, but one of them is NEVER bet against Tom Brady, and that won’t change this week. Look for the Patriots to win and cover the spread Sunday night.