On the Texans: 3 headlines, 2 questions, 1 bet
Tom Brady the Texans killer: A hot topic amongst the Texans this week will be trying to stop Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Stop doesn't seem possible for the Texans against the legendary passer.
Since 2012, Brady has averaged 64 percent completions, 317 yards, and three touchdowns against the Texans including the playoffs. He has thrown just three interceptions in that time. Last year, of course, Brady diced the Texans up spoiling a great Deshaun Watson game as Brady passed for 378 yards and five touchdowns.
"We just shot ourselves in the foot," said Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus. "That's about it. We just got to play sound football all the way through."
Mercilus Returns! Speaking of Mercilus he is back after missing the entire preseason due to injury. He said he is back and ready to play against the Patriots this Sunday as the Texans open the season in Foxboro.
"I've just been keeping my mind sharp in the meeting rooms. Seeing what the guys are doing. Just emulating that and then doing whatever I can on the field as I'm there doing my rehab so I don't think I've dropped off."
Mercilus sacked Brady last year forcing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Jadeveon Clowney.
Foreman Starts on the PUP: Second-year running back D'Onta Foreman will start on the physically unable to perform list meaning it will be week seven before he can return and play in a game.
"It wasn't that tough," said Foreman about learning he would be on the PUP list. He said he'd rather be ready to play and healthy than rush something.
The Texans running backs in his absence are returning starter Lamar Miller as well as long-time Texans rusher Alfred Blue. Tyler Ervin is classified as a running back but it is unlikely he sees any work there as he is a special teams player primarily. The Texans also added Buddy Howell, a rookie out of Florida Atlantic. Troymaine Pope was cut over the weekend.
Foreman can't play in those six weeks but he also can't practice in those six weeks either. Once he returns to practice he also has three weeks to practice before he returns to the active roster. With Jacksonville being the week seven matchup it isn't out of the question it could be a few weeks after his return before we see Foreman really hit a groove.
Who will shine for the Patriots on offense? The easy answer is Rob Gronkowski. Gronk has always had a good game when healthy against the Texans. This year though with the Texans inside linebackers and new faces at safety they have never been more prepared to slow the dominant tight end. Stopping him is impossible but limiting the damage from Gronk will be key.
That leaves Chris Hogan as the primary pass catcher after Gronkowski while all the New England running backs bring something to the table. Brady and company will be throwing a lot if the light preseason action the Texans defense had is any indication. Running the ball will be hard for New England so expect Rex Burkhead and James White to try to annoy with matchups out of the backfield. The Texans ripped off five sacks against Brady last year between his stellar passing performance so look for the quick game to be key for the Patriots.
How do the Pats stop the Texans? It doesn't seem like the Patriots will have the players to stop or slow Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense this year. The Texans will bring a far more talented offensive line to the game than last year's slop. Watson has the offense built around him. Will Fuller will play after missing last year's game. Bruce Ellington had a coming out party against the Pats last year and now plays his best position in the slot. Ryan Griffin's best performance last season was against New England.
The only team that can stop the Texans are the Texans. Deshaun Watson threw two interceptions in his second start last year so his ball security will be paramount. Bill O'Brien and quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan will have to avoid getting too cute with the gameplan. O'Brien will need to really go for the win this year too. Last year, staring third and a yard down from the Patriots 18. he ran Lamar Miller for no gain and settled for a field goal to go up five. Later, after the Patriots scored, he mismanaged the clock on the final drive.
My bet is this thing is going to be a high-scoring affair. Even with the Texans having so much talent on defense healthy. The Patriots lack the talent to stop Watson and no one stops Brady. He always finds a way. 51 is the over/under for this week's game as of publication and with 69 being scored last year it seems like a gimmie. With both teams having dynamic passing offenses and questions about rushing the ball it will be an air affair on our way to an entertaining matchup.