NFL 2019 (Week 13): New England Patriots at Houston Texans

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 13): New England Patriots at Houston Texans

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

Bill O’Brien is one of many former Bill Belichick assistants to be given the chance to lead his own NFL team. With three AFC South titles in five seasons, O’Brien could arguably be considered the most successful of Belichick’s former assistants, and yet he is 0-5 against his former boss. Fortunately for O’Brien, this is probably the weakest Patriots’ offense he will have faced; unfortunately, though, this is the best defense he will have faced. At 7-4 and in first place in their division, a win over the AFC’s top seed would do wonders for the Texans’ playoff chances and confidence, let alone removing the monkey from O’Brien’s back. But this is New England and wins simply don’t come easily.

Patriots: One reason for New England’s offensive struggles (and “struggles” is a relative term, as even the worst Tom Brady-led offense is still better than most teams in the league) is the deluge of injuries to the receiving corps. Consider this: only rookies N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers have no designation on the injury report. Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett and Matthew Slater are all listed as questionable. In keeping with that theme, defenders Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jason McCourty, Patrick Chung, Stephon Gilmore and Ja’Whaun Bentley carry “questionable” tags. Those are all starters aside from Bentley, who is the primary backup at inside linebacker. While the Patriots’ defense scorched record books on its way to an 8-0 record, Lamar Jackson and a rash of injuries have seemingly convinced the rest of the league that these Patriots are beatable. However, whether they actually lose again remains to be seen.

Texans: Houston is enjoying much better health than its opponent at the moment, although it has been doomed by a leaky defense and a porous offensive line. Deshaun Watson has been sacked 32 times, which is tied for sixth-most in the league. Against the pass, the Texans rank 25th or worse in yards allowed per game (259.3), touchdowns allowed (22), interceptions recorded (5) and opposing passer rating (101.0). For comparison, New England is second in pass yards allowed per game and leads the league in the other three categories. If Houston is to have any chance of victory Sunday night, it will need to contain Brady’s hobbled receivers and play its best defensive game of the season. Watson is no stranger to winning shootouts, as he has given his team a second half lead in three of their four losses (a 41-7 loss to red hot Baltimore being the only exception) and led them to the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of four of their seven wins. He plays a different style of football than Jackson does for the Ravens, but his legs could play a valuable role in keeping Houston in this game against a historically good Patriots’ defense.

Prediction: Brady’s receivers are able to find voids in Houston’s secondary, but Watson leads another herculean fourth quarter comeback to steal a huge upset win at home.

Houston Texans 26, New England Patriots 24

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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