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Wednesday, 20 September 2017 13:59

Scouting Ahead: Houston Texans

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Scouting Ahead: Houston Texans Image via bleacherreport.com

After both teams started the season off with disappointing losses, both the Patriots and Texans rebounded in week two. Now they face off in week three. 

On Sunday afternoon, the 1-1 New England Patriots will be squaring off against the 1-1 Houston Texans. This will be the third straight season that these two teams have faced each other. It will be the second straight year in which the Texans travel to Gillette Stadium. During the 2016 season, Houston made two trips to Foxboro, with the second trip coming in the divisional round of the playoffs. All time, New England is 8-1 against Houston with two of those wins coming in the playoffs.

During this year's NFL Draft, the Texans traded up to the 12th overall pick to select Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson. While Watson wasn't named the starter to begin the season, it only took 30 minutes of football for him to take the reins of the offense. He will now have tough test in just his second start as a professional. His task, become the first rookie quarterback to defeat a Bill Belichick coached team on the road. Ben Roethlisberger (2004), Mark Sanchez (2009), Colt McCoy (2010), Russell Wilson (2012), and Geno Smith (2013) are the only rookie quarterbacks to defeat a Belichick coached team. Those rookies all started the game at home. Belichick coached defenses have typically done a very good job defending the rookies. Watson's ability to diagnose the Patriots defense will go a long way in determining how well the Texans play on Sunday.


On offense, Houston might be the only team that is equally as beat up as New England. In their win last week, the Texans had to get creative on offense as they only had one tight end active. As of right now, it is looking like Houston might be able to have two tight ends dress on Sunday. Unfortunately for Watson, both of those tight ends are receiving tight ends. Without a tight end to assist in blocking Watson may feel the need to get the ball out quicker. If that is the case, Watson could look to get the ball out to his playmaker, DeAndre Hopkins.


Speaking of Hopkins, receivers like him might be one of the reasons that New England targeted Stephon Gilmore in free agency. The size that Hopkins possesses makes him a tough draw for Malcolm Butler. Gilmore however, measures up nicely compared to Hopkins, and should be able to keep up with him downhill. That would allow Butler to take care of whoever the second option might be for Watson. If Gilmore can neutalize Hopkins on his own, it could be a long day for the offense of the Texans.


For the Patriots, Danny Amendola, Dont'a Hightower, and Matthew Slater all returned to practice this week. Amendola's return should be of particular note. In last week's victory over the Saints, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett were the only active receivers for the Patriots. However, both Hogan and Dorsett did miss time last week due to an injury. A healthy Amendola could open up the playbook for New England. When Amendola played in week one, it seemed like he had taken over Julian Edelman's role in the offense as Brady routinely threw to Amendola on "need to have it" plays. 


A key matchup to watch in this game may not be where one would typically look. For a good battle on Sunday, keep your eye on the trenches. While Cannon was once maligned, he has become one of the better right tackles in the NFL since the return of Dante Scarnecchia. In two games against Watt since becoming the starting right tackle, Cannon has held Watt without a sack in each game. Preventing Watt from getting going goes a long way towards moving the ball against the defense of the Texans. If Watt can be slowed down with only one man, it will allow the offensive line to focus on other rushers. Should Cannon slow Watt down on Sunday, Brady could feel realtively comfortable in the pocket.


One big factor for New England will be the health of Rob Gronkowski, who left last week's game with a groin injury. Gronkowski's injury isn't considered to be serious. Given his lengthy injury history, the Patriots could elect to treat the All-World tight end with kid gloves. With the receiving corp already delpeted, an injured Gronkowski could seriously limit the New England offense. 


As crazy as it sounds for a game in week three, this could be a game that has playoff implications in terms of seeding. With both teams entering the game with the same record, a winning the game would give one side a tiebreaker over the other. That could come into play in January during the playoff races. The Patriots has historically taken care of business against the Texans. Will that trend continue on Sunday? Only time will tell. 

Billy Wyatt

Billy Wyatt is a New England Patriots beat reporter for CLNS Radio. Now covering the Patriots for multiple seasons, Billy is a veteran journalist at CLNSRadio.com A graduate of the University of Hartford with a communications degree, Billy’s prior experience was as a sports writer for the Hartford Informer.You can reach Billy via e-mail at bwyatt_91@yahoo.com. And you can follow him on Twitter @Billy_NFL.