Ho-hum. The Houston Texans are headed to Foxboro again, where they haven’t won a game since forever. While the Patriots faced a reality-check in Week 1 and came out much-improved in Week 2, the Texans allowed a miserable, mind-boggling 10 sacks in their first outing, and barely scraped by the Bengals after that. Bookies agree that the visitors are highly unlikely to win at Gillette Stadium, installing the Pats as 2-touchdown favorites.
But hold your horses. There’s a brand new factor that makes this match-up a whole lot more interesting – its name is Deshaun Watson.
Given the chance to take the reins against Cincinnati, Watson threw balls into the turf and looked nervous. But by the end of the 1st half, the great athlete showed exactly what he can do on the NFL level, taking off on a 50-yard improvised touchdown run reminiscent of Michael Vick. It turned out to be the winning score.
Tom Brady and the Patriots have regrouped with a neat new I-formation scheme and improved discipline on defense. They will likely win, but there’s no denying that this game just got a lot more fun to watch with the nascent Watson getting the start opposite the Boston HOF’er.
Who: Houston Texans at New England Patriots
When: Sunday, September 24th, 1 PM EST
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
Lines: Houston (+13) at New England (-13) / O/U Total: (44)
J.J. Watt and the Texan defense will be charged with keeping this game close until Watson can figure things out from the pocket. To do that, they must defend a brand-new (or throwback) Patriots offense.
Bill Belichick was concerned about the Pats’ pass-blocking after the 40 year-old Brady was racked and sacked by the Chiefs in Week 1. So, the great HC unveiled a simple-yet-brilliant tactic in Week 2 against New Orleans, putting the Patriots in a power-I running formation with a full-time fullback.
The move is brilliant on several levels. There is no better medicine for a struggling OL than getting to block downhill. The play-action passing game benefits Brady by simplifying reads – combined with the QB’s legendary quick decision-making and release, opposing sacks will be hard to come by. Finally, the Patriots surely have their wide-open shotgun offense committed to memory, and can unleash it on an unwary defense at any time.
If the favorites are playing ball-control, that would seem to put value on the under, right? But we’re thinking that the final score might just go the other way – big-time.
Belichick famously brought in Tim Tebow for one recent preseason, let him run the read-option in training camp, then abandoned it completely – allowing Tebow to struggle with a regular playbook. To the world, it seemed like a useless experiment. But the Pats were learning how to defend the option play.
Ironically, if Watson was being used to his fullest potential in Houston, the Texans would be running 10 to 20 option plays per game for the swift QB…which would likely be blown up and confounded by the wise NE defense. But instead, Watson is being asked to hand-off, drop back and throw, or take off on scrambles and improvise.
That’s not a clever strategy over the long term. But on a given Sunday, it can create havoc. We’re thinking that the rookie QB will make enough plays to light up the scoreboard early – forcing Tom Brady to punish the Houston defense with passes.
Play the over. What is seen as a potential low-scoring game by bookies will turn out to be anything but. Think Patriots 38, Texans 24 – and an easy win on over (44) points.