We know the faces. The O’Briens, Wilforks, Vrabels, Crennels. We know the drill. Gillette stadium, divisional round of the playoffs fresh off a bye. The book’s out on this Texans team- their offense stinks, their defense is legit. With playmakers at every level of the D, if Houston is going to keep this one tight it will be because of that unit. That being said, this game really isn’t about the Texans. It’s about New England. The Pats are healthy and peaking and if Brady’s bunch plays the way they’re capable, Houston doesn’t have a prayer. On paper is one thing sure, with a 16 point spread telling you all you need to know, but the field is another. All that matters is who executes on Saturday night…
That being said,
I like our chances. Love them, really. You’re crazy not to. Best quarterback and coach of all time going for their fifth, the one for the finger.
All hands on deck. Circle the wagons, call to arms. Playoff freakin’ football.
Let’s take it around the table and see what the BBS Staff has to say…
Tom Brady: Over/Under 300 yards passing?
Niko: The Texans haven’t given up a 300-yard passer in forever. They also haven’t seen Tom Brady this season. With an especially stingy Houston run defense, I see Brady running a death by paper cuts offense. Look for James White and co. to take advantage of the exposable linebackers in coverage. OVER.
Pete: It is going to be close. The Patriots should utilize the run in this game and I really hope the Patriots do not line Brady up in the shotgun and make him throw it 40 times. The Pats can beat the Texans without risking Brady to injury. I will say UNDER, but he won't play poor by any means.
Jordan: Going to go with OVER here. The Patriots may be missing their number one RB in Blount this week due to illness. Sucks, but it happens. Obviously that means more Lewis and White this week. Look for Brady to utilize everybody, throwing different looks at the Texans defense, and forcing them into making bad decisions.
James White: Over/Under 39 yards receiving?
Niko: See my Brady bit. OVER. Although Connor Cook only connected with his running backs 3 times out of the backfield last week, he targeted them 7 times. Expect both White and Lewis to make an impact in that fashion in this one.
Pete: OVER. That is a pretty low number, even though I don't believe James White will be used a lot in this game.
Jordan: OVER. All depends on if Blount plays though. If LB29 is out there, different ballgame. But as of right now, White should be seen a lot.
Who has more yards rushing: Dion Lewis or LeGarrette Blount?
Niko: Tough one. Almost exactly 50/50 split over the last month or so. I’m going to roll with the hammer back, Blount, who should get clock killing duties in the fourth.
Pete: If the Patriots are smart, they will use LeGarrette Blount early and often to set up the play action pass. For that reason alone, I will roll with Blount.
Jordan: If Blount plays, it'll be Blount by a hefty amount. At the end of the day, Lewis is probably more important to this offense than Blount, so Blount should be out there killing clock as Niko said.
Julian Edelman: Over/Under 7.5 receptions, 72 receiving yards?
Niko: OVER on both. Jules is full go ahead. Expect Tommy B to look his way early and often and JE11 to answer the call in a big way. Houston has good, physical defensive backs, but they don’t have an answer for Mini-tron.
Pete: OVER on receptions, UNDER on yards. Edelman is playing some of the best football of his career, plain and simply. With a horrendous linebacker core, the Patriots should be able to hit the open man in the middle of the field, which is Edelman's specialty.
Jordan: OVER on both. We are in the playoffs now, Edelman has been hitting these marks in limited snaps to begin with. Edelman at full throttle should easily nail these marks. Especially if Michael Floyd is out there...
Martellus Bennett: Over/Under 3.5 receptions, 49 receiving yards?
Niko: Given Houston’s ridiculously talented edge rushers (Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus), I think Marty B will be asked to help Cannon/Solder more times than not. Therefore, I’m going to roll with just UNDER on both, but I think Bennett finds pay dirt.
Pete: UNDER on both. Like I mentioned, the Patriots should use Marty Bennett in more of a blocking roll and won't be out to receive many passes.
Jordan: Going UNDER on both as well, for the same reasons the other 2 guys gave. However, inside the 10 yard line, Marty is deadly. I expect him to sneak into the end-zone once.
Who has the most receiving yards: Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Floyd, or Chris Hogan?
Niko: As tempted as I am to go Floyd here, given his extremely impressive season finale at Miami, I’m going to take Chris Hogan, who has been an impact player from day 1 this season. This is the deepest receiving corps the Pats have had in years.
Pete: This may be a little more of a bold prediction, but I will say Michael Floyd. I think he will have a very solid game after his best game as a Patriots against the 'Phins.
Jordan: Mitchell has been limited all week, so I'll take him out of the race immediately there. So if I had to pick between Floyd and Hogan, I would probably roll with Hogan. He's just been really good down the field as a vertical threat for TB12 this year, and I'm sure he'll break one off this Saturday.
Brock Osweiler: Over/Under 199 yards passing?
Niko: In Week 3, albeit against a very different looking Patriots’ defense, the Brockstar went 24/41 for 196 and an interception. I expect his stat line to look somewhat similar in this one, but crossing this threshold in garbage time. OVER.
Pete: OVER. He may suck, but any quarterback should be able to throw 199 yards if you've made it to the playoffs. Expect a lot of dink and dunk passes.
Jordan: This is absurdly low. Osweiler looked pretty good against the Raiders last week, so I'm sure at least some of that will translate to this matchup. He won't be great by any means, but he should be able to eclipse this mark. OVER.
Lamar Miller: Over/Under 79 yards rushing?
Niko: UNDER. Miller has been injured/ineffective all season, and the Pats’ run D has been impressive. Fresh off holding Jay Ajayi to a 16 rush, 59-yard performance, Patricia’s unit will turn the Texans one-dimensional and force Big O to chuck the rock. Good luck with that.
Pete: UNDER. The Patriots will take away Houston's best offensive weapon and, while DeAndre Hopkins is an explosive receiver, he needs someone to throw it to him.
Jordan: UNDER. The Pats have been stellar against the run all year, it seems. And with the key players like Branch, Brown, Hightower, and Roberts out there to stop the run, it'll be a tough day for Lamar Miller.
DeAndre Hopkins: Over/Under 4.5 receptions, 59 receiving yards?
Niko: Logan Ryan and whoever else has been responsible for covering the talented wide out in previous games have consistently neutralized Hopkins. He’s struggled to develop consistent chemistry with his quarterback, and other than a few spectacular grabs near the sidelines in the first matchup, was essentially invisible. Slightly UNDER on both.
Pete: UNDER on receptions, OVER on yards. Hopkins should be able to break away from Malcolm Butler on a play or two, but he won't overly burn the Pats.
Jordan: UNDER on both, but not by much. Hopkins is one of the better receivers in the game, but Malcolm Butler is one of the better corners in the league. Butler has really turned his season around and has performed at an elite level. The Patriots HAVE to keep him around, especially after he plays a good game against Hopkins.
Will Fuller: Over/Under 3.5 receptions, 45 receiving yards?
Niko: I’ll go OVER on catches, and UNDER on yards. Patricia’s group played 2 high safeties for the majority of the week 3 bout, and I can’t see him straying too far from what worked. A focus of the Pats’ secondary should be keeping Fuller in front of them at all times.
Pete: UNDER on both. Fuller has had a case of the drops ever since he was at Notre Dame and that should only intensify in a big game.
Jordan: OVER/UNDER. With Malcolm Butler breathing down the neck of Hopkins all game, Brock Osweiler is going to have to look to target other bodies. And since Logan Ryan, although performing at a high level recently, is still a little bit of a concern for me. Not much, but enough to see Osweiler throwing at him.
CJ Fiedorowicz: Over/Under 3.5 receptions, 39 receiving yards?
Niko: Brock has to go somewhere, right? Let’s go just OVER on catches and just UNDER on yards for the big guy Federowhatever. He’s the one target Brock has been able to develop some harmony with.
Pete: OVER on both. Like Brady and Edelman, Fiedorowicz seems to be Osweiler's favorite target. Expect to see a heavy dose of the tight end this weekend.
Jordan: OVER on both. Dude is pretty big, and has emerged as Osweiler's scapegoat.
Ryan Griffin: Over/Under 2.5 receptions, 29 receiving yards?
Niko: The first time around, Griffin was the lone bright spot for Houston: 8 catches, 52 yards on 10 targets. I don’t see Bill or Matty P being all that upset if he’s the leading receiver again with another mostly modest stat line. OVER on both.
Pete: Honestly, I don't even know who this guy is so I will say UNDER.
Jordan: Who? UNDER.
Niko: Jadeveon Clowney vs. Nate Solder. This is a big one. The 6’6 270 2014 1st overall pick has shaken his “bust” status en route to a healthy, Pro Bowl season. Solder will have his hands full all game, but if he can keep Clowney at bay, you have to feel very good about Brady and co. moving the ball efficiently.
Pete: Malcom Butler vs. DeAndre Hopkins. If the Patriots can contain Hopkins, this game will be over before it started, if it isn't already.
Jordan: Brown and Branch vs. Lamar Miller. Obviously the two beefy run-stuffers have an O-line to go through too, but they've been so good that I'm sure they'll be able to get into the backfield here and there. What they have to do is make sure they can bring Miller down immediately. If Miller can shake some tackles, he could have a big game.
Niko: As we saw the first time around, Houston’s special teams can be taken advantage of. Flying under the radar this week is the expected reappearance of return man Danny Amendola, who (assuming he gets his old duties back) changes the game with a 30+ yard punt return.
Pete: Like I mentioned above, I think Michael Floyd is going to have a big game. I don't know if it will necessarily show in the numbers, but I expect a lot of him this week.
Jordan: Even though this happened in Week 3, I say the Patriots pitch another shutout against the Texans. The defense is definitely capable of doing it as currently constructed, but we'll have to see how they look early.
Game Total: Over/Under 44.5 points?
Niko: Just OVER. Houston is too well coached to be embarrassed like that on the offensive end again. Plus, no defense is too strong for Brady to crack, especially at Gillette.
Pete: OVER. The Patriots should be able to score into the 30s against this piss-poor team and I would not be surprised if the Texans get a courtesy touchdown late in this game because of O'Brien and Belichick's relationship.
Jordan: OVER. Like Pete said, the Pats should be able to crack 30 points, no matter how good the Texans defense is. They put up 27 with Brissett at QB, imagine what Brady might've done... insane.
Final Prediction (New England -16):
Niko: Patriots 33-13. The Pats are too well coached, too well-led, and too focused to overlook the team they put a beating on earlier this year. Can’t wait. Season starts now.
Pete: 31-16 Patriots. It will never be close, but the final scoreline will not dictate just how much the Patriots dominated this game.
Jordan: 35-14 Pats. Patriots dominate all day, and take the pressure off of the defense so they can relax and just attack. Garbage time TD keeps it close. Go Pats!