Scouting report: New England Patriots

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Wes Welker and the Patriots come to Houston for a Week 17 showdown with the Texans.

The Texans (8-7) return home to Reliant Stadium for their final game of the season on Sunday against the New England Patriots (10-5). Sunday's game will kick off at noon CT.

Head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots pounded Jacksonville 35-7 in Week 16 in Foxboro, moving to 8-0 at home in 2009. Belichick is the only head coach in NFL history to win three Super Bowl championships in a four-year span. In his nine seasons as Patriots head coach, Belichick has won 126 games, four conference titles, six division crowns and 14 playoff games.

Quarterback: Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady has manned the field general spot for every season since 2001, except for 2008 when he suffered a knee injury in Week 1. Brady has completed 354-of-539 passes for 4,212 yards, 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for New England, which ranks second in the NFL in total offense. Against Jacksonville in Week 16, he was flawless, completing 23-of-26 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns, without an interception.

Brady had a career year in 2007 when the Patriots went 16-0 during the regular season. In that season, Brady was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player, setting all-time NFL records for most touchdown passes in a season (50), highest touchdown-interception differential (+42) and most games with three or more touchdown passes (12). His 117.2 passer rating was the second-highest of all-time, while his 4,806 passing yards were the third highest single-season total in league history.

Brady was picked for the 2009 Pro Bowl on Tuesday.

Running back: Laurence Maroney leads the Patriots' rushing attack. The fourth-year back out of Minnesota has 194 carries for 754 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns. Maroney only played in three games in 2008 before being placed on injured reserve for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.

Backing up Maroney is Kevin Faulk, who has added 335 yards on the ground on 62 carries and two touchdowns in his 11th season with the Patriots. He's also third on the team in receptions and receiving yardage.

New England was expecting big things out of free-agent RB Fred Taylor, who came to the Patriots after spending 11 seasons in Jacksonville. Taylor has only seen action in five games this season after sustaining an ankle injury that kept him out of ten games. In his limited action, Taylor has managed to run for 236 yards on 56 carries and two touchdowns.

Also getting carries this season has been former Texas Tech Red Raider Sammy Morris. He's rushed for 4.7 yards per carry and scored a pair of touchdowns, one of which came Sunday against the Jaguars. The game against Jacksonville was his best of the season, as he picked up 95 yards on 12 rushes.

Wide receiver/tight end: Randy Moss is always a deep threat and has 13 touchdown catches in 2009, to go along with 78 receptions for 1,189 yards. The six-time Pro Bowler set an NFL record in 2007 with 23 touchdown receptions. Sunday against the Jaguars, three of his four catches were for scores, and he finished with 45 yards on the day.

Another former Red Raider, Wes Welker, is currently leading the NFL in receptions with 122 catches and is second with 1,336 yards receiving despite missing the first two games of the season. Welker needs just two receptions to pass Herman Moore for the second-most receptions in a season all-time.

Welker was selected to the 2009 Pro Bowl on Tuesday.

Tight end Benjamin Watson is another outlet for Brady, and he's pulled down 26 passes for 372 yards and five touchdowns. His best game, statistically, of 2009 came in Week 1 against Buffalo, when he caught six passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns.

Offensive line: Left to right, starting at tackle on the offense line for the Patriots, it goes Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal and Nick Kaczur.

Mankins, the left guard, was picked for the Pro Bowl on Tuesday and will start for the AFC.

The Patriots up front have paved the way for a ground game that's averaging 4.1 yards a carry, and has allowed just 16 sacks this season.

DEFENSE Defensive line: New England runs a 3-4 defense, and up front at nose tackle it's anchored by 2009 Pro Bowl starter Vince Wilfork. Four of his 43 tackles have been for a loss, and he's also forced a fumble.

The defensive ends are Ty Warren and Jarvis Green. Warren, from Texas A&M, has 46 tackles and a sack, while Green has 35 tackles and a sack.

Linebackers: This is a very strong unit, as outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain leads the squad with 9.5 sacks, to go with two forced fumbles and 52 total tackles. Also, Adalius Thomas is the other starter outside, and he has 34 tackles and three sacks.

Inside linebacker Jerod Mayo leads the team in total tackles with 95, and next to him starting on the inside is Gary Guyton, who has 80 total stops.

Secondary: Jonathan Wilhite and Leigh Bodden start at corner for the Patriots, and Wilhite has 41 total tackles and two interceptions. Bodden, meanwhile, is tied for the team lead in picks with five, and he's also deflected 18 passes.

At free safety, Brandon McGowan is the starter, and he's forced three fumbles, and also has 77 total tackles. The strong safety is Brandon Merriweather, who has five interceptions, one of which he's returned for a score. Merriweather also has three tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and 73 total tackles.

Special teams: On special teams, kicker Stephen Gostkowski is in his fourth season in New England and the NFL. Gostkowski currently leads the team with 116 points. He has connected on 82.8% (24-of-29) of his field goal attempts, including a long of 53 yards.

Chris Hanson is averaging 39.8 yards and netting 34.5 yards on his 53 punts this season which rank last in the AFC.

Welker has returned the majority of punts this season, averaging 12.5 yards per return. The Patriots have used eight different players to return kickoffs and as a team are averaging 22.3 yards per return on 48 kicks including a long of 52 yards from Maroney.

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