Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will look for more success against the Houston Texans on Sunday night: they are 10-1 versus them since they came into the league in 2002 and haven’t lost to the team since Bill O’Brien took the job. The Patriots take their defense, one that has allowed just nine touchdowns in eleven games, against an explosive Houston offense led by Deshaun Watson.
With a win, the Patriots will have won 11+ games for the tenth straight year, which would extend their current NFL record. And for New England to be successful, here are the keys to the game:
Keep the offense trending in the right direction
Despite the Patriots not having scored 20 points as an offense in the last three games, they started to show some promise last week against the Dallas Cowboys. Both rookie wide receivers, N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers, made some big plays as the run game led by Sony Michel was beginning to show that the Patriots offense is finally getting healthier — and displaying some more consistency as a result.
With Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu both likely active today, the Patriots will get two of their top three receivers back healthy. And going up against a secondary that has lacked consistency all year long, this could be the breakout game we’re waiting for from Tom Brady and company.
Limit the big plays and contain Deshaun Watson
With Houston fielding two elite receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, the Patriots secondary will have its hands full once again. Jason McCourty being out for the second straight week with a groin injury, pushes second-year cornerback J.C. Jackson into the starting lineup opposite Stephon Gilmore again. And this game will serve as a big test for him: Jackson will likely line up across the deep threat that is Fuller.
As far as the quarterback is concerned and although he is no Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson has the ability to make plays with both his arms and legs. With a struggling offensive line, the Patriots shouldn’t have an issue providing some pressure on the former first-round draft pick, but keeping him from eluding pocket and extending plays is imperative to the Patriots’ success on the defensive side of the ball.
Continue working towards finding N’Keal Harry a role in the red zone
Last week, we saw a beautiful touchdown reception from N’Keal Harry: the first-round rookie went up and made the back-shoulder catch over Dallas cornerback Byron Jones. With an offense that has been seemingly struggling to finish drives off in the red zone, the big body that is Harry should continue to help this team — we haven’t seen that type of throw from Brady really since Week 2 to Antonio Brown.
However, with Harry now having two games under his belt and seeing an uptick in targets each week, Brady should start to look No. 15’s way more and more especially in the red area.