AFC Divisional Playoffs
(4) Houston Texans at (1) New England Patriots
Texans: I’ll be honest here and tell you that I didn’t give the Texans any type of chance last week against the Oakland Raiders in the Wild Card Round because I was unsure of what to expect from their defense in the playoffs especially without J.J. on the field because without him, they’re good, with him, they are great and truthfully speaking from an analytical standpoint, I was very unaware of what to expect from Brock Osweiler because he’s struggled so much all year. He stepped up on Saturday when his team needed him too. The two biggest things I took away from him on Saturday was how he didn’t force the ball to his receivers. He let his guys get open and bam, the ball was placed perfectly and secondly, he didn’t turn the ball over which is a big time positive. I was also impressed with their defense and more so how Clowney played. He’s finally looking like the guy we expected him to look like coming out of college. That was their first playoff win since 2013. They now travel to Foxboro to face a red hot and the top overall seed in these playoffs in the New England Patriots.
Patriots: Here they are once again with a bye for the sixth straight season with one of the top seeds in the AFC playoffs and this is what we expect from them annually now. It has definitely been quite the year for the Patriots. Brady missed the first four games due to a suspension issued and the Patriots went 3-1 without him. He comes back and in the twelve games he played in, the Patriots won 11 of the 12 en route to a 14-2 record and what makes this even more impressive they were able to do this without their best player on the field in Gronk and let’s not also forget that they traded Jamie Collins away during the season and he was by far their best player on the defensive side of things. Speaking of that, this is the best Patriots defense I’ve seen since the last time they won the whole thing in 2014-15. What makes them so good is how they make you work to earn your yards on the field. You just aren’t going to throw the ball deep down the field on them and you have to earn every yard. It’s disciplined football to a T. With a win on Saturday, the Patriots will be in the AFC title once again for the sixth year in a row.
Texans Player To Watch: C.J. Fiedorowicz– By now, we know how the Patriots work. They will take away the top playmaker or playmakers and force you to beat them with someone else. This guy was targeted a lot last week and I see the Texans entering this one with the same gameplan. With tight ends, you want them to have that one on one battle with someone and they’ll immediately have the advantage. I look for C.J. to be targeted a lot early on.
Patriots Player To Watch: Dion Lewis- He didn’t play in the first meeting because of a knee injury, but he’s back in this one and with Gronk injured, Brady has targeted him more and if you’re a running back for the Patriots, you have to be able to catch the ball on check downs and block in the backfield. He does both. What I like about his game is how crafty he is in the open field once the football is in his hands. He will open things up and force Houston to put extra attention on him.
Texans Keys To The Game– My first key for them is to attack Logan Ryan any chance you get. He’s usually the guy you throw at when attacking the Patriots and the second and probably biggest key is to get Lamar Miller the ball early. When he runs for over 90 yards, the Texans are 4-1. With their defense, it’s key that they get Blount down in open space. For a guy his size, he just needs a little bit of space to burst into the open field.
Patriots Keys To The Game– They need to keep Jadeveon Clowney out their backfield. The Patriots offensive line can easily be attacked and with Watt out, he’s become that disruptive force on the defense. Next to Dion Lewis, Michael Floyd is another guy to watch for. Incorporate him more to take some pressure off Julian Edelman.
Prediction: When they last met, Jacoby Brissett was the starter after Jimmy Garoppolo was injured. No Brady, No Jimmy G, no problem. The Patriots destroyed the Texans and Houston didn’t even cross the 50-yard line that night. It’s simply not playoff football without Tom Brady. The legend will be starting his 32nd career playoff game. I like New England to advance. Patriots 35 Texans 21