The NFL regular season is back, which means it’s back to the normal weekly stuff. The Patriots’ first opponent for the 2018 will be the Houston Texans. The Texans are coming off a disappointing 4-12 season after back-to-back AFC South titles, but they still have a very strong talent base that could give the Patriots trouble. In addition to their talent level, they run a similar offensive and defensive scheme that the Patriots run with head coach Bill O’Brien running the ship. However, that storyline is mostly irrelevant once the ball is kicked off as it comes down to player execution for both teams.
The Patriots can look to start up their 2018 season with a nice win against a solid team that fell down due to an absurd amount of injuries to key players. These are the two players who can make the biggest difference for the Patriots in Week 1:
Offense: RB James White
White isn’t a surprising name as an X-Factor type player given he’s always been THAT guy for the past two seasons. White is the guy that Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels trust in a got to have it situations and this game will have that moment barring exceptionally poor play from either team. Pass receiving, pass protection, or grinding out short yards may be White’s role especially given the Texans’ LB are more run and chase guys that can be exposed in space. Sony Michel originally was going to be my pick for this, but the Patriots backfield situation is very fluent due to his knee issues early in camp. With that in mind, I felt that White will be the one who is asked to pick up the slack in the early going.
Defense: EDGE Trey Flowers
Whoever is manning the left edge of the Patriots defense has a lot to deal with. It’s important that Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, and Deatrich Wise not allow Watson to escape the pocket and be able to create plays with his feet. Keeping Watson in the pocket is a must because a broken scramble play puts pressure on the secondary to be able to stick. The interior rushers also have to be able to collapse the pocket to prevent Watson from escaping that way. I assume Clayborn will be the right defensive end and Trey Flowers playing from left end in the starting lineup with Wise seeing some action as well, especially on passing downs. If Flowers is able to hold his edge along with Clayborn continuing to play like he has in the preseason, I like the Patriots’ chances of bottling up Watson if the secondary can do its job.