Written by: Ronnie Vaughan – Staff Writing Intern (@AyePaisano)
The New England Patriots will be playing the Houston Texans in the 2nd round of the NFL playoffs, Saturday 1/14/2014 at 7pm EST. Soon after the conclusion of the Steelers’ squashing of the Dolphins, some books across Europe and Vegas had lines available for the next week’s “battle” (it probably won’t be on). The line opened Patriots -16.
Shockingly enough,there was a larger point spread in NFL history. The Vikings were -16.5 favorites against the Cardinals back in 1998. The Randy Moss/Randall Cunningham led Vikings were 16-1 in the regular season and won the game 41-21.
Now as a Patriots fan, I try not to be cocky week in and week out, the schick has been beaten to death and no one wants to hear it. On that note, I believe the Pats will win this game and cover the spread. I think they win by 21, does that seem too ridiculous? I don’t. Do people actually think the Texans have a chance of winning?
Tom Brady claimed today that “there is nothing easy about facing the Texans”. Now Tom is probably just being modest, but he is not necessarily wrong. They are the #1 ranked defense, have a lockdown corner in AJ Bouye and have a workhorse running back in Lamar Miller. Usually those three aspects to teams are frightening. But when you are Quarterbacked by Brock Osweiler, it’s tough not to giggle. I’ll give him credit, he was able to have a solid “fantasy” game against a bottom 10 defense, oh and they were also missing their MVP candidate on offense. That’s neither here nor there I guess.
On the Pats side of the ball Brady ranks a 99.3 on ProFootballFocus.com which is good for #1 at the position. Although they will still be without Gronk, the offense hasn’t missed a beat. Unlike their struggles on offense last year, the Patriots are running the ball more efficiently than Brady has seen in recent years.
Dion Lewis and James White are dangerous option in the pass game and in the open field while Blount has the ability to run over a school of men while grinding down clock in later game situations. I feel that people seem to forget that Blount has ran for 1,168 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Where I see a potential problem for the offense is protecting Brady from Whitney Mercilus (86.8 PFF Grade) and Jadeveon Clowney (87.2), both of which rank top 10 at the position. I had mentioned A.J Bouye before and his has shown to be a premier talent at the CB position, but the Patriots are great at scheming away from elite backs.
By no means is this defense a bunch of scrubs, they are ranked #1 for a reason. Stopping the Texans offense should not be a problem for the Pats, or anyone realistically. The Pats defense and coach Matt Patricia has seen plenty of game tape on Lamar Miller through his time with the Dolphins and that is where I would be most worried about.
Sure, Nuk Hopkins is a premier talent but Osweiler is not. Will Fuller, especially in his time at Notre Dame, has shown amazing play making abilities on offense and special teams, but that has not been the case in the NFL yet. The tight ends, CJ Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin, are good not great at the position. I do expect for them to see more targets than usual due to where the Patriots force you to throw the football, over the middle for short gains.
I’m an excited to see if the funky trick plays will be brought out in this game, but the odds are they won’t be. They don’t need to really. Maybe Cyrus Jones doesn’t fumbled a KR/PR for once and brings it to the house, that would be a nice change of pace. Brady will end up going 25-32 for 250 yards, 2TDs and 1INT, Blount will have 20 carries for 80 yards and 2TDS and Osweiler is probably going to turn the ball over 2-3 times.
Final score → Pats 34 – Texans -13
Can’t wait to talk about next week where the one legged Big Ben led Steelers have to come to Foxborough to fend off a team on a mission TIll next time.