Here comes another chance for the Texans to shock the NFL and win at New England. We all know the history. We know that if the Texans can put together the type of defensive effort they did against the Patriots in the playoffs they'll have a shot if certain other factors play out. Among the extras needed are a solid ground game and zero turnovers, or at least a win in the turnover margin battle.
In both outings last year, Houston ran for over 100 yards as a team. They'll need more than that. I'll set the number at 160. Lamar Miller ran for 80 yards in the first contest and 74 in the playoff game. He'll get plenty of chances again. And maybe D'Onta Foreman can add some punch to the mix. Also, Deshaun Watson, whether it's designed or not, will certainly do some business on the ground with his legs.
While all this is going on, the Texans need to play clean and click on at least 50% of their third down opportunities. There will be a lot of emphasis on Watson making key third down throws. He'll also have to make some big plays on first down. With the Texans getting some bodies back at tight end and Bruce Ellington back at receiver, they'll have a few more weapons to work with.
Coming up with a similar defensive performance as the playoff game cannot be assumed. The Patriots are well aware of the fact that the Texans stayed in the game into the fourth quarter. And they are eager to reestablish their home field edge after falling to Kansas City on opening night.
The Texans have to be able to get to Tom Brady with their pass rush. They were effective being physical with him and getting him off his launch point. Brady, given time, is the deadliest quarterback in the history of the league.
Houston has never left New England victorious. The Patriots are the premiere team in the league and, despite the loss to the Chiefs, are still the AFC favorite to get to the Super Bowl. Of course it would be better if this happened down the line in the schedule so Watson would have more NFL experience under his belt but we are where we are. He'll see it as an opportunity more than as a problem. Maybe he and J.J. Watt, who did not play in the playoff game, can be the key added ingredients to challenge for the upset.