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2017 NFL Divisional Playoff Preview: Houston At New England

LeGarrette Blount rushed for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Texans in week 3. Read a preview of the rematch below. (Brett Coomer Houston Chronicle)

The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 27-0 in week 3. Houston comes into this game as giant underdogs but this is the playoffs, crazier things have happened. The only problem is the Patriots won that game 27-0 with 3rd string quarterback Jacoby Brissett. This time Tom Brady will start and is in the midst of his best season ever at 39. The 2017 NFL playoffs are officially down to the elite eight. It’s the Texans vs. the Patriots! Now it’s time to give 3 reasons why each team has a chance to win. What are the keys to the game for each team in order to advance this postseason? For more on the rest of the playoff teams, click here!

9-7 Houston Texans At 14-2 New England Patriots

Saturday, January 14th, 8:15 p.m. ET: CBS

Spread > Houston +16 – Under/Over 44.5

WHY The Houston Texans Will Win:

Jadeveon Clowney has been a difference maker for the Texans late in the season. (Brett Coomer Houston Chronicle)
  1. Houston Has A Very Good Defense:

Tom Brady recently called the Texans a ‘damn good defense’. Houston ranked 1st in yards allowed this season which stands to reason why Brady paid his respect.  The advanced metrics show that Houston has the 5th best pass defense in the league. You’re not going to get big plays on these guys. Cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jonathan Joseph matchup really well with the Patriot wide-outs which could pose a problem in the passing game. The Texans also lost their best player J.J. Watt and haven’t really missed a beat. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has these guys rolling. Houston leads the NFL in yards allowed on the season. Jadeveon Clowney has had the best year of his career notching 6 sacks. He has really been an unstoppable force as of late. In the wildcard win over Oakland, Clowney had a key interception. Houston’s defense also had 3 sacks on the heels of a big performance by Whitney Mercilus.

Jadeveon Clowney has to get the better of Nate Solder in order to give Houston a chance (Pro Football Focus)

2. Mark Sanchez Beat Tom Brady In A Playoff Game:

Hey if Mark Sanchez can do it why can’t Brock Osweiler. Sanchez beat Brady with the Jets. Trust me crazier things have happened. Brock Osweiler’s career record against Tom Brady is 1-0. That win came as a member of the Broncos. There are ways you can talk yourself into imagining this upset. Maybe DeAndre Hopkins has a big game. Maybe Lamar Miller can rush for 100 yards. Who knows, but this is the NFL. Any team can be beat on any given week.

Sometimes playing with nothing to lose can create the perfect recipe for an upset win (ESPN)

3. Maybe Houston Can Cover The Spread:

Look Houston probably won’t win but they can cover. 16 points is a lot. Knowing Bill Belichick, he is going to save his cards for next week. If New England gets the lead they will probably eat chunks of the clock by handing the ball off to LeGarrette Blount. New England isn’t going to take the Texans lightly but they may pump the brakes towards the end of the game. There is no reason to think the Texans will lose by more than 2 touchdowns right? Tom Brady is 15-3 at home in the playoffs but only 9-8-1 against the spread. Only twice in the last 11 playoff game’s the Pats won by more than 13.

Read About The Texans Playoff X-Factor Here

WHY The New England Patriots Will Win:

Tom Brady tops the list of reasons for why New England wins this one. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
  1. Tom Brady Is On Another Level Right Now:

Tom Brady just graded out as the best regular season quarterback ever (according to Pro Football Focus). His 99.3 grade is by far the highest ever. These quarterback grades take out other factors such as getting help from receivers. To think about what he is doing right now at 39 in unfathomable. His 28-2 touchdown to interception ratio is unheard of. Brady threw an interception on less than 1 percent of his throws and only had 2 other passes that even had a chance to get picked off. His 4 turnover worthy throws occurred at less than 1 percent of all his attempts on the season (0.81%). The biggest difference in Brady’s game over the years is that he has somehow been able to get more mobile as he ages. Brady’s 112.0 passer rating on plays lasting at least 2.6 seconds would have never happened 4-5 years ago. Is there any other explanation other than Tom Brady is god on earth? Houston doesn’t have a prayer of winning this game if number 12 continues to play like this.

Tom Brady is dominating the competition in terms of quarterback play (Pro Football Focus)

2. Brock Osweiler Can’t Beat The Patriots:

Let’s not over think this one. Brock Osweiler isn’t winning this game. Brock Osweiler is the only quarterback to average less than 6 yards per pass this season. The $72 million signing this offseason couldn’t have worked out worse. It makes you wonder where Osweiler is mentally as well. Don’t forget this guy was benched in week 15. He wouldn’t even be starting this game if it weren’t for a Tom Savage concussion that occurred in week 17. Houston had a mere 25 touchdowns all season which is by far the lowest of any playoff team. This Texans offense is just historically inferior regards to other playoff bound teams. Houston ranked 30th on offense according to Pro Football Outsiders which measures advanced metrics (DVOA -18.5 weighted offense). They also even ranked 31st in red-zone offense meaning they don’t convert on their chances even when they do get into the red-zone. The Texans frankly aren’t a very good team. They were outscored on the season by 49 points; the worst of any playoff team. The Patriots led the NFL in points allowed this season (15.6). The bigger question might be how long is this game going to be watchable?

The Patriots are a pretty safe bet to win the Super Bowl this season (ESPN)

3. The Patriots Are Always Fundamentally Sound:

There are just certain variables that you need to have in order to win a football game. Special Teams plays a big part in this. The Texans are the worst special teams unit in football according to Pro Football Outsiders. Houston fumbled 2 kickoffs in the week 3 meeting against the Pats. You can’t beat New England making sloppy mistakes. It wouldn’t shock me if it happened again. This is Bill Belichick we are talking about and his left-footed punter voodoo. New England’s offensive line has been able to hold up in protection allowing only 24 sacks all year, the 5th fewest. There is also a big disparity in the turnover differential. New England has a +12 turnover differential on the season. Houston is -7. You can’t beat the Pats if you can’t win the turnover battle.

Read About The Patriots Playoff X-Factor Here

History shows that Houston probably doesn’t have any chance to win this game (ESPN)


I’m taking the Patriots in this one obviously but I would also feel pretty confident about giving up the 16 points as well. Given that the Patriots have extra time to prepare it feels like this game could get ugly fast. Belichick knows Bill O’Brien very well considering he was Brady’s quarterback coach a few years ago. The Patriots have been able to sustain a running game this year thanks to LeGarrette Blount and his 18 rushing touchdowns. Don’t overthink this one, New England wins.

New England Patriots Defeat Houston Texans 34-9

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