Patriots

Texans' title chances take devastating hit: Watt, Mercilus out for year

cp-texans-mercilus-watt-100917x.jpg

Texans' title chances take devastating hit: Watt, Mercilus out for year

The Texans suffered a pair of devastating injuries on Sunday night that could wind up ruining their chances at contending in the AFC.

During a 42-34 loss to the Chiefs, J.J. Watt suffered a season-ending tibial plateau fracture in the first quarter. He left the game and was eventually taken to the hospital. Whitney Mercilus was injured earlier in the first quarter, suffering a torn pectoral muscle that ended his season.

"I think that is tough, but at the end of the day that is not an excuse," Texans coach Bill O’Brien said after the game. "We have to do better in all three phases. Look, I thought we competed until the end and the next guys are going to have to step up and play. 

"We have to do a good job of coaching and scheming, but that is the National Football League. Guys get hurt and the next guy in the team meeting room at that position needs to step up."

The reality is, though -- and this isn't news to O'Brien -- "the next guys" in this case are not going to be the game-changers that Watt and Mercilus have been. 

Watt is arguably the best defensive player of this generation, having won three Defensive Player of the Year awards (2012, 2014, 2015). Mercilus was a Second-Team All-Pro last season and made up a three-headed pass-rushing monster in Houston alongside Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. 

Having both Watt and Mercilus in the mix with Clowney and linebacker Bernardrick McKinney is what made the Texans defense one of the most dangerous units in the league. Before the Patriots and Texans matched up in Week 3, we took a deep dive into why the sheer number of pass-rushers Houston possessed was such a problem

"I mean, they have too many good players so it’s hard to help," Bill Belichick said before the game. "If you help one, then you’re light on the others. If you help one of the others, then it’s tough. That’s what makes them so good, is they get a lot of those matchups and you can’t help. 

"Like I said, too many guys so the guys that get singled are productive and they make plays. They make plays for a loss. They make plays in the running game. They make plays in the passing game and they make plays in pursuit."

With Watt and Mercilus unavailable, the Texans will lean heavily on Clowney and McKinney to provide pressure while defensive lineman Christian Covington and linebacker Brennan Scarlett, in all likelihood, see more playing time. 

Houston made it to the Divisional Round without Watt last season, and they gave the Patriots offense fits at Gillette Stadium. But to make any noise in January without both Watt and Mercilus, the Texans will need rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson -- one of the best stories in the league through five weeks -- to continue to surpass expectations by leaps and bounds. And even that may not be enough.

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Scratch that Danny Amendola-Patriots reunion.

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network reports the free-agent wide receiver is re-signing with the Detroit Lions, where he spent last season and had 62 catches for 678 yards. Former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will enter his third season as Lions coach in 2020. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

The 34-year-old left the Patriots after five seasons to sign with the Miami Dolphins in 2018 and may have burned a bridge or two with Bill Belichick. 

It had been speculated that perhaps bringing in a former reliable Tom Brady receiver might be part of a plan to lure Brady back to New England, with a report in late January that Amendola could come along to wherever Brady lands in free agency, but a Brady-Amendola reunion in Detroit isn't happening, either. 

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

next_pats_podcast.png
NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

There's one big question that New England Patriots are facing this offseason. Who is going to be their starting quarterback in 2020?

For the past 20 seasons, the team hasn't really had questions at the position. It has always been Tom Brady's job. But with the 42-year-old set to hit free agency, the Patriots can't necessarily count on him returning unless they want to pay him what he's worth.

So, now the question for the Patriots becomes, what will life look like if Brady departs?

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

On the latest episode of The Next Pats Podcast, which returns for its first episode of the 2020 offseason, Phil Perry is here to explore that question. And really what it all boils down to is what the Patriots are looking for in a potential successor.

Click here to listen and subscribe to Phil Perry's Next Pats Podcast:

As Perry notes, it's likely to be one of two types of quarterback: The traditional pocket passer or a more mobile athlete in the mold of some of the recent success stories at the position.

Do the Patriots look for the next Brady? Uber-accurate, somebody who's going to sit in the pocket and absolutely dissect every little aspect of the defense that he is looking at. Or, do they go a different route? Do they go with an athlete? Do they get more mobile? Because talking to people this offseason, I'm getting a whiff -- I'm getting a scent that people believe the pocket passer might be dead.

Perry is joined by guests including Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo, Greg Cosell of ESPN and NFL Films, and NFL Network's Kurt Warner to answer questions about Brady's future and what his game has looked like in recent seasons.

For more thoughts about the Patriots offseason, check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast, available as part of the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network.