Curran's Know Thine Enemy: Houston Texans
The Patriots open the 2018 season at home against an out-of-division opponent they're very familiar with: The Houston Texans. The Pats have played Houston three straight years, and six of the last eight, and even met twice in the playoffs over that span.
The skinny on the Texans:
Record: 0-0 (Preseason: 3-1)
2017 Record: 4-12
Head Coach: Bill O’Brien
Offensive Coordinator: None
Defensive Coordinator: Romeo Crennel
The 2017 Texans were torpedoed by injuries to front-seven defenders J.J. Watt (pictured with Tom Brady) and Whitney Mercilus in Week 5, followed by the loss of quarterback Deshaun Watson during practice after their seventh game of the year. After that, with Tom Savage at QB, the Texans went in a graveyard spiral going from 3-4 to 4-12. Now, all three guys are back and full go. Which means the Texans should be a major threat to the Patriots' dominance in the AFC. They have all the defensive pieces with Watt, Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney plus two very good linebackers in Bernardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham. They have experienced corners with Johnathan Joseph and Kevin Johnson and both their safeties are converted corners: offseason addition Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson. It’s a star-laden team.
You really can’t find a team with more talented front-seven personnel anywhere in the NFL. And they move people all over the place, which will put extra stress on the Patriots offensive line. Figuring out who is where is is one thing, said Bill Belichick, but, “when you’re talking about some of the guys that are as elite as the Texans front is . . . identifying them is probably the easy part. Blocking them is the hard part.” Also good? Watson. His ability to extend plays and be a run-pass threat means the Patriots’ front-seven has to be disciplined in its rushing lanes and communicate well. Finally, DeAndre Hopkins (pictured) is one of the best in the NFL at wide receiver, so that’s an issue.
There really aren’t any obvious weaknesses to the Texans defense. They are pretty well-stocked front to back. The only spot to seize on -- and it could be a big one -- is the offensive line. Left tackle, Julie’n Davenport is a second-year player from Bucknell who is going to be tested by Adrian Clayborn. He did not have an impressive rookie season. On the other side, Seantrel Henderson is the starter. He’s not highly regarded either.
For the third straight year, the Patriots host Houston. Last year, a Tom Brady-Brandin Cooks touchdown (with their post-TD celebration pictured) from 25 yards out with 23 seconds left secured a 36-33 win. The Patriots beat Houston 27-0 behind Jacoby Brissett in 2016 during Brady’s suspension, then dispatched Houston in a closer-than-the-score-reflects 34-16 decision in the playoffs. The Patriots have only lost to Houston once in 10 meetings -- the season finale in 2009.