Monday, December 10, 2012

Key Matchups for Pats-Texans

At this point in the season, Patriots fans are used to tuning into the second Monday night game of the year. Unconventionally, the matchup against the Texans is New England’s lone appearance on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. On the upside, we’re only forced to listen to Jon Gruden rant about ‘this guy’ or ‘the sheriff’ just once this year. The Monday night showdown against the Houston Texans will be a great barometer to evaluate just where the Patriots are at in this point of the season.

The Texans come in at an astounding 11-1, a record the seemingly deserve, as they have played some very resilient football over the course of the season. Their victories range from close calls, come from behinds, and blowouts. They rank 5th and 6th in offense and defense, respectfully, and rank in the top ten of nearly every major statistical category. Simply put, Houston has proven that they can win in nearly every fashion.

On the media front, all has been quiet from either side. Texans’ WR Andre Johnson said last week claimed that, “it’s the biggest game in (Texans) franchise history.” That’s about as much as you’ll hear from either side, as both teams have the upmost respect for one another.  

Here are some key Matchups to look for in tonight’s contest:

Tom Brady vs. J.J. Watt

Highly regarded as the top players at their respective positions this year, Brady vs. Watt should pan out to be one of the greatest head-to-head matchups you’ll see all season. It’s understood that the O-line will be directly responsible for defending Watt, but keep your eyes open pre-snap – this is where Brady will audible receivers to run opposite Watt in order to throw away from Watt, who leads the league in tipped balls this season (15).

Andre Johnson vs. Aqib Talib/Devin McCourty

This is when we get to see how good Talib can be. Acquired at the trade deadline, Talib had just over a week to get adjusted to the New England defense and has shown flashes of greatness. At times, Talib has also let players burn by him where there was apparently no safety help.

Safety help is also crucial. Johnson has the ability to torch the New England secondary on literally any play. It’s important for McCourty to keep an eye out, and to shut down all passing lanes.

Pats’ 3rd Down Offense vs. Houston 3rd Down Defense

Each team comes in ranked tops in either 3rd down conversion (Patriots) and 3rd down defense (Houston). This is a crucial in determining a victor tonight. If they want to win, The Patriots must either a). be successful on 3rd down, or b). be very, very successful on 1st and second down. The fan in me wants the latter, the analyst in me needs it to be the former.

In all, this will be a great contest that is arguably the game of the year. Stay locked to New England Football  Live for updates throughout the game.

Prediction:  Patriots 26, Texans 21 (10-3)

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