Texans vs Patriots
When: Saturday, January 14th; 8:15pm
Where: Gillette Stadium; Foxborough, Massachusetts
Line: Patriots -16
While this slate of games offers more competitive ones compared to the Wild Card round, this will not be one of them. This will be the second meeting of these two teams as the Patriots beat the Texans 27-0 in Week 3, without Tom Brady. This game is one of those true David vs Goliath matchups. It’s the winner of the 16-seed play-in game taking on the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. If Houston wins, it will be one of the greatest upsets in NFL Postseason history.
The Texans earned the right to make the playoffs by winning the putrid AFC South division with a record of 9-7. They won their Wild Card game against the Oakland Raiders, who were starting their 3rd string rookie quarterback, and missing Pro Bowl tackle Donald Penn. The Texans defense overwhelmed the rookie quarterback Connor Cook, who threw 3 interceptions.
Tom Brady is not Connor Cook.
The Patriots enter this game the number 1 overall seed at 14-2. Of the Patriots 2 losses, only one came with Tom Brady, who was suspended the firstborn four games of the season, playing quarterback.
Brady is having a phenomenal year, which is what we’ve come to expect from Brady. He’s thrown for 3,554 yards, 28 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions, while completing 67% of his passes and averaging 8 yards per attempt.
The Texans have a top-ranked defense according to conventional numbers, but rank just 7th DVOA. Though a person may point out the Texans rank 5th DVOA against the pass, which is what the Patriots do best. The Texans can create pressure, with former first overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney playing at a level the Texans envisioned when they drafted him.
The Patriots are the 2nd overall DVOA offense, as well as being the 2nd ranked passing offense. The Patriots may look to exploit the weak Texans run defense, which ranks just 17th DVOA. Bill Belichick has been known to feed Legarette Blount when he feels he has an advantage there. Blount has quietly had another 1,000 yard rushing season, gaining 1,161yards on the ground while finding the end zone 8 times.
Keys to the Game: In order for the Texans to even make this game competitive, quarterback Brock Osweiler will have to find some success through the air. Osweiler performed well against a bad Raiders pass defense, throwing for 168 yards and a touchdown. Houston ranks 30th DVOA in passing offense, but has as much of a favorable matchup as a passing offense this poorly can have. The Patriots rank 23rd DVOA in passing defense, but I don’t think that’s going to matter much.
Prediction: The Patriots pound the ball on the ground early with Legarrette Blount to open up the field for Tom Brady. I see the Texans defense having a tough time slowing down the Patriots offense. With the Texans struggling to record first downs and putting pressure on their defense, the Patriots control this game wire-to-wire. Patriots win 30-3.