The New England Patriots and Houston Texans will face off in the Divisional Playoffs exactly one week from today. While we'll go fully in-depth over the coming days, I thought I'd lead off coverage by offering ten quick hit on the match-up:
2. Since falling to the New England Patriots 42-14 in week 14, the Texans are 2-2, including the playoffs. During this stretch, they have been outscored 81-70. This includes yesterday's 19-13 playoff win over the Bengals.
4. One key player for the Patriots who didn't suit up for the week 14 match-up: tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski will make an obvious difference for the Patriots offense in this one, especially in pass protection.
5. One key player for the Texans who didn't suit up for the week 14 match-up: outside linebacker Brooks Reed. He returned from a groin injury and started against the Bengals, picking up three tackles and a sack. He adds yet another dimension to the Texans' pass rush.
6. Texans' defensive end JJ Watt rercorded a sack and two passes defensed in the Texans' win over the Bengals. The Patriots neutralized him somewhat in their week 14 match-up, holding Watt without any sacks or passes defensed. Nonetheless, Watt was able to pick up four quarterback hits on Brady in that game.
7. In the week 14 match-up, the Patriots focused much of their attention on making the Texans one dimensional by slowing Arian Foster. It paid off as Foster was held to only 46 yards on 15 carries. It should be noted, however, that Foster is coming off of a 32 carry, 140 yard performance against the Bengals.
8. One stat that really stood out from the Texans victory over the Bengals was how well Houston's pass protection held up against Cincinnati's volatile front four. The Bengals only managed two quarterback hits, and zero sacks against the Houston offensive line. Talk about dominating.
9. The Patriots were really able to establish a balance in the offensive game plan the last time around. They finished the game with 33 rush attempts and 36 pass attempts. Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have typically succeeded in the postseason when establishing the run and keeping the offense at least somewhat balanced. An early key for the Patriots has to be to get the run going. Stevan Ridley should be ready for 18-22 carries.
10. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has received a lot of criticism as of late, and some of it may be merited. He had a pick-six against the Bengals yesterday. Over the last five games, including the playoffs, he has just one touchdown and four interceptions. On the year, Schaub has had a quarterback rating of 72.1 or less on six separate occasions. Tom Brady, for comparison, hasn't even hit that low mark once this season.
While a lot of these stats would suggest that momentum is on the Patriots' side, Arian Foster made a strong point following the Texans' Wild Card victory over the Bengals. "I'm not a big believer in momentum," Foster said. "Every Sunday you have to come out and bring your best or you can get beat on any day."
Truer words couldn't be spoken. The Patriots have a long week ahead of them in preparation, and their week 14 blowout victory means nothing and can only help in preparation at this point. It's a whole new season, and there's no room for error.