In what could end up deciding home field advantage in the AFC, the (11-1) Houston Texans travel to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough to take on the (9-3) New England Patriots in a Monday night match-up that shouldn’t disappoint (8.30pm ET).
With Houston’s Arian Foster on the field, the potential for rushing greatness is always present. This season, Foster has piled up monster numbers. He is fifth in the NFL in both yards (1,102) and rushing yards per game (91.8). He is first in touchdowns with 13.
That said, Foster is not the story come Monday night. You see, while he has put up great numbers, anyone that knows Foster knows that this is just the norm. The surprise story however is the New England Patriots and their rushing attack, which for the first time in quite a few years, ranks in the top ten in the NFL.
A two year back out of LSU, Ridley has led the way for a revitalized New England running game. With 1,010 yards, he ranks seventh in the NFL and sits just over 90 yards shy of what the veteran and Pro Bowl running back Foster has put up. Ridley also averages just slightly less than Foster in yards per game, with 84.2 to Foster’s 91.8. With nine touchdowns, Ridley ranks second, just four scores behind Foster.
The stats really tell the story in this one. Both teams are bringing above average running games to the field but at the same time, both teams also have above average running defenses.
New England ranks near the bottom in pass defense, allowing 279.9 yards. In protecting against the run however, the Patriots are ninth best, allowing opponents just 100.8 yards per game. The Texans as a team tell much of the same story. Against the pass, the team ranks 19th, allowing 235 yards. In protecting the run though, there is only one team better. In allowing just 87.6 yards a game, the Texans are second best in the NFL in run defense.
While quarterbacks, (NE) Tom Brady and (HOU) Matt Schaub, pose a formidable threat with all of their offensive weapons, the running games of these teams will really be the deciding factor.
The importance of the running game cannot be understated. While in and of itself, both teams have really been able to win games on the strength of their backs, the best asset of the rushing attack is that it opens up the passing game to be dominated by Brady and Schaub.
New England Quick Hits
Tom Brady’s Balanced Offense
Brady leads the league’s sixth best passing attack, averaging 285.5 yards a game. Overall, the 13-year veteran and one of the greatest still playing the game, Brady has thrown 25 touchdowns (4th in NFL), completed 64.8 percent of his passes (9th) and has thrown for 3,537 yards (8th). The beauty of the Patriots’ passing game though has been the way that Brady distributes the ball:
- (WR) Julian Edelman: 21 REC, 235 YDS, 3 TD
- (WR) Brandon Lloyd: 50 REC, 561 YDS, 3 TD
- (WR) Donte Stallworth: 22 REC, 309 YDS, 2 TD
- (WR) Wes Welker: 92 REC, 1,064 YDS, 4 TD
- (TE) Rob Gronkowski: 53 REC, 748 YDS, 10 TD
- (TE) Aaron Hernandez: 27 REC, 276 YDS, 2 TD
Twice the Tight Ends, Twice the Production
The Patriots were the first NFL team to run a two tight end set last season. Utilizing both Gronkowski, who finished the season as the NFL’s All-time best tight end, and Hernandez, who received his fair share of catches, New England dominated teams through the effective use of this position.
This season provided a bit of a different story as Hernandez and Gronkowski have only taken the same field twice due to injuries. That said, New England carries a league high seven tight ends, while only employing five wide receivers.
While Brady has had success with this, the biggest issue is that right now, the New England offense is riddled with injuries. Gronkowski and Edelman are listed as OUT as well as back-up tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. Lloyd, Welker and Hernandez are all listed as Questionable as well.
Now, only so much can be read into this considering the way in which New England lists players on the IR. That said, Welker and Hernandez both went last week as the Patriots disposed of division rival, the Miami Dolphins. Both also put up good numbers in the contest.
Houston Quick Hits
Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson
Other than Arian Foster, no one has been more productive this season for the Texans’ as has Andre Johnson. Although Johnson has just three of Quarterback Matt Schaub’s 21 touchdowns, he has accounted for nearly one third of his total yards.
Schaub has completed 266 passes this year, 74 of which have been caught by Johnson. Schaub has thrown for 3,062 yards, 1,114 of which have gone to Johnson. Johnson averages 92.8 yards per game which is fourth best among NFL wide receivers.
It is worth noting, that with just 56 yards on five receptions last week, none of which came in the second quarter, that Johnson had one of his worst games of the season. It is also worth noting that in all but one game this season in which Johnson caught less than 60 yards that the following week he came back to increase his yardage that game by more than 50. Against New England’s secondary which is one of the worst in the game, Johnson could be prepared to do just that.
In just his second year in the league, the 23-year-old J.J. Watt is dominating the defensive side of the ball. He has a combined 60 tackles, one forced fumble and is second in the NFL with 16.5 sacks. Given that he will be facing a weak side in the New England offensive line, Watt could be primed for a huge game.
Houston Texans v New England Patriots Betting Picks
New England and Houston are both coming off six-game winning streaks, with momentum fired up in both camps. Right now the Patriots are favored by 3.5 points at home with the over/under at 51.
- Take the Texans +4pts @ -110 with Bovada. It is +3.5pts for the same odds with BetOnline.
- Bet on the points total to go over 51 @ -110 with BetOnline. Alternatively, It is over 51.5pts @ -105 with Bovada.
- NOTE to Non-Americans: Place these bets with Bet365.