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New England Patriots at Houston Texans: Preview and Pick
New England Patriots at Houston Texans: Preview and Pick
The New England Patriots are off the biggest come from behind victory in the history of the franchise. The Patriots survived a 24 point deficit and beat their rivals, the Denver Broncos in the Sunday night football game of the week. The Houston Texans continued their losing ways as they lost to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
New England Patriots at Houston Texans Odds
The opening NFL point spread for this game has the Patriots listed as a touchdown favorite. The Patriots are the better team and after the big win on national television it is not surprise that the public is pounding the Patriots. Over 94 percent of the early wagering is coming in on the Patriots and that has pushed the point spread over the key number and it now sits at (-7.5) at several of the top rated online sportsbooks.
The Patriots are led by one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Tom Brady was 10-of-10 with three touchdowns on passes traveling 10 or fewer yards downfield in the second half/overtime when targeting Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. In the first half, Edelman and Gronkowski had a combined four targets. They have overcome tough spots with good play at quarterback and a good coach.
Since Bill Belichick took over as Patriots head coach in 2000, the Patriots are 15-25 (.375 win pct) in games with at least 3 turnovers, the best win pct with at least 3 turnovers in that timeframe. They need to avoid turning over the ball and avoid the letdown when they go up against the Texans.
The Texans may be on a losing streak, but they still have a good pass rushing team that could get to Brady and make this game closer than the experts think it will be. The Texans are shaping up to be a dangerous dog in this game.
The latest football betting trends for this game actually favor the Texans in this meeting. The Patriots are 1-5 against the spread (ATS) in their last 6 games after accumulating more than 250 yards passing in their previous game, 1-6 ATS in their last 7 road games and 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games after scoring more than 30 points in their previous game. The Texans are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 games after allowing less than 15 points in their previous game and 18-8 ATS in their last 26 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
New England Patriots at Houston Texans Pick
With plenty of time to go before the start of is big game, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
Gary Kubiak is impressed, but not all that surprised.
The Texans coach has been around the league for 30 years — as a backup quarterback with the Broncos, an assistant coach and coordinator in Denver, and now as a head coach with Houston. And he’s seen this from the Patriots before.
“I just see them playing better and better each week,” Kubiak said of New England, who will travel to Houston for a date with the Texans on Sunday. “They’ve obviously got some guys back and [are] getting back to full strength. What they did in the second half last week is, you know, just phenomenal. Their leadership with Bill [Belichick] and Tom [Brady] has been consistent for so many years.
“I see a team priming itself to make a run for a championship. They have a lot of great players and their coaches on that staff are absolutely tremendous and I see them getting in position to go make that run that they usually make. So, I am very impressed.”
To Kubiak’s point, the Patriots offense is only now starting to come together, as tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Shane Vereen and wide receiver Danny Amendola have been on the field at the same time for two games (Carolina and Denver). As a result, New England has averaged 34 points per game in its last four contests, three of them wins. Add their presence to the already impressive group of offensive options in Stevan Ridley and Julian Edelman — all led by Brady — and you have a lot to deal with if you’re the Texans.
“There are just so many things that they are good at,” Kubiak said. “I mean, they throw the ball as well as anybody in the game. They can line up and run it extremely well too. As they work through some guys being out, it was impressive to watch them work through that.
“One week to prepare for that group is very tough, because the coaches do such a great job of coaching and getting so many things done. I mean, like I said, you guys know how impressed I am with their organization and what they have been able to accomplish and continue to accomplish.”
Even on a normal week, it would be a challenge for Kubiak and the Texans coaching staff to prepare for the Patriots. But Houston is dealing with a delicate situation in that the head coach is starting to work his way back to full strength after suffering a stroke earlier this month. With defensive coordinator Wade Phillips stepping in and serving as an interim head coach, Kubiak said Wednesday that he’s “doing good,” and continues to try and work his way back to a “full schedule.”
“I’m not totally there yet, but I’m feeling better each and every week,” said Kubiak. “I’m trying to get myself back to where I was before and I feel like I’m heading that way. I’m so very lucky and I hope to be back in full force here pretty quick and doing all the things I normally do. I think I’m getting there.”
The New England Patriots came back from a 24-point deficit to defeat the Denver Broncos 34-31 in overtime last Sunday night, marking the largest comeback win in team history. The Patriots trailed the Broncos 24-0 at halftime before scoring on their first five offensive drives of the second half to overcome the deficit. Teams are 6-and-617 in games trailing by at least 24 points at halftime, a winning percentage of .0096.
With the win the Patriots improved to 8-3 on the 2013 season. The Patriots are now guaranteed to finish the season with a record of .500 or better for the 13th consecutive year. At the conclusion of the 2013 season, the Patriots will be the only NFL team to finish with a record of .500 or better in each of the last 13 years (2001-2013). Each of the other 31 NFL teams had at least one losing season between 2001 and 2012.
The Patriots will begin the month of December this Sunday when they travel to Houston to face the Texans. The Patriots own the NFL's best December record since 2001 with a 45-6 record. A victory over Houston will give the Patriots their ninth win of the season and will give them their 13th consecutive winning season.
Including the Houston game this week, three of the next four games for the Patriots will be on the road.
If the NFL season were to end today, the Houston Texans would own the first pick in the 2014 draft.
They’ve slipped to 2-9 after their ninth straight defeat this past Sunday, a 13-6 loss to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
But consider this: A year ago today, the Houston Texans stood at 10-1 and atop the AFC’s standings.
While the Texans have dealt with injury woes this season that at least rival what the Patriots have endured (star running back Arian Foster and linebacker Brian Cushing lead the way among the Texans on injured reserve), many of the same pieces that contributed to a 12-4 season in 2012 remain in place and will be on the field this Sunday for their game against the New England Patriots.
As Bill Belichick noted during his conference call with the media on Tuesday afternoon, the Texans are just a handful of plays from having a decidedly different record.
“You look at the Seattle game, you look at the Oakland game, you can go right down the line; Arizona, that’s another team that’s playing well, Indianapolis,” Belichick said. “They had all those teams right down to the wire and had their chances. They’re a play or two away from, I would say, breaking out and winning a whole bunch of games.”
The Patriots, at 8-3 and in second place in the AFC, have had their own share of close games this season, highlighted by Sunday night’s thrilling overtime win. And while many of those games have fallen in their favor, Belichick is aware that his own team is a handful of plays away from a far different outlook.
While the Texans have been a major disappointment, rookie quarterback Case Keenum has shown he can be a threat.“We’ve been in a lot of games this year that could have gone either way,” he said. “You say if we won all of our close games, our record could be one thing. If we’d [lost] all our close games, our record would be a whole other thing.”
So, while on the surface Sunday may look like a mismatch, the Patriots know that there’s no room for taking the Texans lightly.
“I think that the football team looks a lot like last year’s football team,” Belichick said of the Texans. “They’re very, very good on defense. They have a lot of good players. They’re very disruptive up front. They’re fast. Their offensive line is intact and it’s really the same guys they had last year, with the exception of [guard Antoine] Caldwell, but [Brandon] Brooks has obviously taken on a bigger role.”
The Texans have handed the keys of their offense to undrafted rookie Case Keenum, a switch that has resulted in, at least from the outside, what looks like an improvement in terms of throwing the ball downfield. The unit has struggled on the whole, as starter Matt Schaub was benched and Foster’s absence has been felt, but individual talent exists, led by such players as receiver Andre Johnson and left tackle Duane Brown.
Defensively, the Texans line features the reigning defensive player of the year in J.J. Watt, whom offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels described as “as talented a defensive player as you have to play against.”
“I would say at some point in the game, most every one of our linemen will have to block him,” McDaniels noted.
The words may sound like lip service to those outside of the Patriots organization, but the coaching staff can draw upon experience to remind their players of the importance of treating every game as the most important of the season.
A 2004 Week 16 loss to the Miami Dolphins, a game in which the Patriots entered 12-1 and the Dolphins 2-11, serves as a reminder that records are irrelevant come kickoff.
It is tempting to take a bigger picture view of the remaining five games of the season, as prognosticators can comfortably forecast five more wins for the Patriots, who don’t face another team that currently has a winning record.
A 13-3 regular-season finish would guarantee the Patriots at least the second seed in the AFC and a coveted first-round bye, if not the top overall seed and home-field advantage.
But the Patriots have to look no further than the Texans as an example of how quickly things can change. Houston slipped from the first to third seed after stumbling down the stretch last season, sending them on the road to New England in the divisional round of the playoffs, a game the Patriots would easily win.
Coming off of an emotional (and critical) win against the Broncos, the Patriots have put themselves in a strong position going forward. They’ve endured injuries on both sides of the ball and the offense is rounding into form after a slow start.
But now isn’t the time for the Patriots to sit back and stare into a crystal ball to forecast the future.
The Patriots already have made it clear: There’s no looking past the Texans this Sunday.
While much has changed since these teams met in the playoffs, the New England Patriots know better than to overlook the woeful Houston Texans.
The Patriots try to build on last weekend's remarkable victory Sunday when they visit the Texans, who are mired in their longest losing streak in franchise history.
After falling behind 24-0, New England (8-3) stormed back to beat Denver 34-31 in overtime last Sunday. Tom Brady threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal with 1:56 left in OT after the Patriots recovered a live ball on a botched punt at the Broncos' 13-yard line.
"One thing we've shown is that, mentally, we have some toughness. We've been in some bad situations," coach Bill Belichick said. "We've been able to hang in there even when it hasn't always looked great. But, really, I would say that the season for us is kind of starting now.
"The teams that play well in November, December and January, those are the teams that are standing in the end."
New England, which has won 27 of 29 in December, increased its lead in the AFC East to three games after New York and Miami both lost last week. While the Patriots are closing in on a fifth consecutive division title, the Texans (2-9) have taken a big step back after two straight South crowns.
Houston, which went a franchise-best 12-4 last season before eventually falling 41-28 at New England in the divisional playoffs Jan. 13, is tied with Jacksonville in last place. The Texans have averaged just 15.3 points in losing nine straight.
"It's been tough. It's been frustrating," said six-time Pro Bowler Andre Johnson, whose 1,002 receiving yards rank fourth in the NFL. "If I had to bet my life I wouldn't think we would be in this position."
Despite Houston's woes, New England isn't expecting anything to come easy.
"They have a lot of the same guys they had last year," said Brady, who is 4-1 lifetime against the Texans, including playoffs. "We're not even concerned about the record. You look at what they can do defensively and the kind of playmakers they have. ... They have probably the best front we've faced all season.
"We have a big challenge. I don't think we've really performed to our level of what we need to. We're still building and trying to figure out what kind of team we're going to be. This will be a good week to see if we can finally put together 60 good minutes."
Houston came up short in losing 13-6 to Jacksonville. Rookie Case Keenum, who was benched the previous week against Oakland, recorded a passer rating of 54.7 after going 18 of 34 for 169 yards and an interception.
"We've got to find a way to eliminate some of the mistakes and some of the things that are happening to him," said coach Gary Kubiak, who plans to stick with Keenum for the time being. "I think those will happen as he continues to play. You just, you want to find a young man some success."
The ground game has also struggled, averaging 81.0 yards over the last three weeks. Ben Tate, who will continue to start in place of the injured Arian Foster, carried the ball seven times for one yard against the Jaguars. Backup Dennis Johnson had 74 yards on 13 attempts.
Tate could find more running room against a Patriots defense gashed for a season-worst 280 rushing yards last week. New England is allowing 139.7 per game to rank 31st in the NFL.
"I don't know if he ever got into a rhythm with what he's doing," Kubiak said of Tate, who has been playing with broken ribs. "We know what he's going through. He's not practicing during the week, he's just playing on Sundays. So I know that's tough ... but I think Ben will bounce back."
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley could be in for a reduced role after fumbling in three straight games. He and LeGarrette Blount, who also lost a fumble in the first quarter against Denver, were benched for the remainder of the night.
Brandon Bolden ran for 58 yards and a touchdown while fellow back Shane Vereen compiled 91 total yards. Vereen had 124 total yards and three TDs against the Texans in January.
Houston will also need to be wary of Rob Gronkowski, who has scored in three straight games. Gronkowski leads all tight ends with 433 receiving yards - 80 more than the closest pursuer - since debuting in Week 7.
"Know your plan and be prepared," reigning defensive player of the year J.J. Watt said when asked how to stop New England. "You have to know exactly what you're supposed to do and how you're supposed to execute it."
The Texans, allowing an NFL-low 290.4 yards per game, also rank first in passing defense with 171.8. They could make things difficult on Brady, who has one touchdown and three interceptions during the Patriots' three-game road losing streak.
New England hasn't dropped four straight away from home since 2000.
The Thanksgiving hangover still has you stuffed like a pig, as if you’re Peyton Manning with a 24-0 lead.
Yesterday, you played drums with your turkey legs, smothered the mashed potatoes with enough gravy that it spilled over into your lap.
But who cares. You simply added the hamburg stuffing to the mess and gleefully reached into the wine cellar for the best Boone’s Farm you still had aging.
And now get ready for the Houston Texans, once destined for the Super Bowl, now destined for the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. How quickly the heirs fall.
But stop right there and hold onto your cranberry sauce, because if you haven’t yet thawed out from Sunday night’s winter wonderland of a Bronco beating, Bill Belichick has a stern message:
These Texans are oh-so good and dangerous, too.
Never mind the nine straight losses and the lowest of lows in last Sunday’s loss, at home, to the Jaguars. These Texans, warns Bill, have got it all. Proven quarterback. Ace wide receiver. Top-notch fumble-free, running back. A defense that roars and a J.J. Watt that will have Pats tackle Nate Solder shrinking in fright.
Forget their 2-9 record, forget thinking of division titles and first-round byes, and especially forget about the Peyton panic attack of a glorious victory.
“Sunday? Only thinking about what’s ahead, fellas,” as Belichick is wont to say for the last 14 years or so. “I only deal with what’s on the schedule. This Houston team . . . they are good.”
Oh, yes, this is a biggie, right up there with any game played this season and any left on the schedule. This might as well be the Meadowlands in February for the first cold-weather Super Bowl ever!
The holiday dinner may be still working its way through your digestive system, but these Texans ain’t no apple pie of a dessert. Oh, no, not at all.
Peyton is gone to warmer climates, and so have the Pats . . . to Houston. And the Patriots have a problem . . . in Bill’s world.
So warm up the leftovers, and these Texans are not that mishmash on the plate. They are simply too good for that. Ask Bill
New England's Chandler Jones on Wednesday was selected the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November.
While the Patriots defensive end was thrilled with the honor, he wishes the award could have been shared among more players.
Ten more, to be exact.
"If it was up to me, I would like to be AFC Defense of the Month, because I couldn't do it without those guys, the 10 guys out there on the field with me, like our secondary, our linebackers," Jones said.
"They do a great job of freeing me up, holding guys up. I'm getting a lot of coverage sacks. So, I'm enjoying it.
"It's a great accolade and congrats to our defense."
Jones had four sacks and 16 total tackles in helping the Patriots go 2-1 in November. The second-year player has 10½ sacks on the season, fifth-most in the league, and his two-year total of 16½ ranks third in team history for the most in a player's first two seasons in the league. Only Garin Veris (21) and Chris Slade (18½) had more.
Coach Bill Belichick said Jones has improved since his rookie season, when he missed two games in November due to an ankle injury, but still finished with 45 tackles and three forced fumbles.
"I think Chandler has played much more consistently this year than last year. Although I thought he did a lot of good things last year, too, but his game has come up and we've asked him to do more," Belichick said. "He's taken on more responsibilities, played in different positions, but I think he's having a solid season."
Jones' added duties stem from losses that have hurt New England's defense, including season-ending injuries to veteran defensive linemen Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly.
Jones has risen to the occasion in their absence, too, providing stability and leadership to a defensive line that features a pair of starting rookies, along with veteran defensive end Rob Ninkovich.
"I think he's done a good job of trying to step up, be more vocal," Belichick said.
"Without Vince in there, the communication has certainly fallen more on Rob (Ninkovich) and Chandler. But again, communication is an 11-man job, it's not just a one-man job.
"But they're a key part of it because of their experience and their overall playing skill. I think Chandler is certainly more capable and ready to do it than he was last year and we've needed him to do it."
On Sunday, Jones will get a chance to watch another of the game's young, talented pass-rushers when the Patriots (8-3) play the Houston Texans (2-9).
Defensive end J.J. Watt led the league last season with 20½ sacks and also deflected 16 passes, the most among any linemen in the league. Despite a drop-off in production this season with 9½ sacks and four deflections, Watt still has managed to impress his counterpart.
"He's a great player," Jones said. "He has great moves inside and outside and he's fun to watch."
But while he clearly has progressed from his rookie season, Jones credited the entire defense for improving in the wake of adversity.
"Not just me, but I feel like our defense made a lot of progress, as far as being consistent," he said. "A lot has to do with just the game plan and buying into what the coaches are saying and executing."
The Patriots went the questionable route with safety Steve Gregory (finger) and cornerbacks Kyle Arrington (groin), Aqib Talib (hip) and Alfonzo Dennard (knee) again this week. Tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle), wide receiver Aaron Dobson (foot) and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (knee) are all out.
Tom Brady won’t know until Sunday if he’ll have to deal with Texans cornerbacks Kareem Jackson (ribs) and Brice McCain (hamstring).