Two MVP candidates square off in Week 1 as Deshaun Watson leads the Texans into Foxborough to face off with Tom Brady and the Patriots. Watson lit the league on fire last season, scoring 21 total touchdowns in just 8 games before tearing his ACL.
On the other side, Tom Brady collected his 3rd NFL MVP while leading the Patriots to his record 8th Super Bowl as a player. The Patriots ultimately lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 52, despite Brady putting up 505 passing yards and 3 touchdowns in the loss.
This is a matchup of high profile offenses, and is highly anticipated by NFL fans across the nation. The two AFC teams are expected to be Super Bowl contenders in 2018, and it all starts here.
The Patriots are 6.5 point favorites at home here, and the Over/Under total is listed at 51.
Houston Texans Ready for Watson Back
The highly anticipated return of Deshaun Watson is finally here, and after his electric 8 game stretch last season, expectations are sky high for the former Clemson Quarterback. Not only does Watson have Comeback Player of the Year aspirations after his torn ACL, many expect Watson to compete for MVP this season.
Some pundits are not as bullish on Watson this season, as they believe Watson’s insane success last season is not sustainable. It is somewhat worrisome is that in those 8 games in 2017, Watson threw 8 interceptions. Analytics experts believe that Watson’s statistics (19 passing touchdowns in 8 games) will regress, while the actual product on the field may be more impressive.
The biggest question mark for the Texans is undoubtedly their Offensive Line. A line consisting of Seantrel Henderson, Senio Kelemete, Nick Martin, Zach Fulton, and Julie’n Davenport does little in the way of striking fear into opposing Defensive Lines. To be honest, I am scared for Deshaun Watson’s health this season, due to this shaky line.
The defense in Houston has high aspirations as well, with Defensive End JJ Watt and Edge Rusher Whitney Mercilus looking healthy, while fellow Edge Jadeveon Clowney looks to build off a career year in 2017, playing mostly without Mercilus and Watt. With all 3 on the field together and at full strength, the Texans boast one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
- WR Will Fuller (hamstring)- limited participant Wednesday, expected to play
- EDGE Whitney Mercilus (hamstring)- limited participant Wednesday, expected to play
- CB Kayvon Webster (achilles)- will not play
- New England Patriots Offense Ready to Rock
The Patriots started slow in 2017, getting dominated by the Kansas City Chiefs 42-27. New England will be looking to avoid a similar situation against the Texans, hoping to get off to a hot start in 2018 in hopes of returning to the Super Bowl.
Tom Brady will be flanked by a few fresh faces on offense after the Patriots drafted Georgia Running Back Sony Michel in the 1st round and signed Running Back Jeremy Hill to serve as their goal line power back.
New England also signed Wide Receiver Cordarelle Patterson in Free Agency, and claimed Receiver Chad Hansen off Waivers from the Jets. These additions were made as an attempt to counter the exit of Receivers such as deep threat Brandin Cooks and safety blanket Danny Amendola, as well as the suspension of Julian Edelman.
These loses are somewhat overblown in my opinion, as Brady and Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels have turned countless raw talents into household names.
The defense is also dealing with a few new faces of their own, bringing in hit or miss Edge Rusher Adrian Clayborn, who famously posted 6 sacks in a game against the Cowboys last season, along with Defensive Tackle Danny Shelton and Cornerback Jason McCourty from the Browns.
The Patriots however, will have to deal with these new defensive talents without Bill Belichick disciple Matt Patricia as their Defensive Coordinator. Patricia’s defenses had a knack for forcing turnovers in key moments and for embracing a bend don’t break mentality, and it will be interesting to see the transition.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
- RB Sony Michel (knee)- limited participant Thursday, questionable to play
- CB Duke Dawson (hamstring- placed on IR, will not play
Matchups to Watch
- Houston’s Interior Offensive Line vs. New England’s Defensive Tackles
- Houston’s Wide Receivers vs. New England’s Secondary
- New England’s Offensive Tackles vs. Houston’s Edge Rushers
- New England’s Tight Ends vs. Houston’s Linebackers
- Patriots vs. Texans Prediction
This should be an exciting game, so keep an eye out Sunday. Both teams feature high-powered offenses led by generational talents at Quarterback. New England is a perennial Super Bowl contender, and is very much still in the mix this season. Houston, on the other hand, has some lofty expectations to live up to following Deshaun Watson’s play last season.
We are not drinking the Texans’ Kool-Aid yet. While Watson is an extremely unique and special talent at Quarterback, their Offensive Line scares me way too much to buy into this team too much.
New England has not been known for their defense over the past few years, but they have enough talent up front to push Watson off his spot and force him into some turnover worthy situations. I expect a high scoring game either way, with Watson and Brady battling it out, and funneling targets to their favorite targets.
The Watson-DeAndre Hopkins connection was electric last season, and Hopkins is talented enough to dominate anything the Patriots throw at him coverage wise. On the other side, Tight End Rob Gronkowski will face a tough task against Linebackers Whitney Mercilus, Zack Cunningham, and Benardrick McKinney in coverage. I expect Wide Receiver Chris Hogan to have a big game, while he works off of the attention Gronk draws.
New England will also find success throwing underneath to whichever Running Back they decide to roll with this week, and the Texans pass rush will be mostly negated by Brady’s subtle pocket movement and awareness.
We expect a score somewhere around 30-20, good enough for the Patriots to cover handily. We think the public is too high on the Texans, and I’m hammering the Patriots -6.5 this week.
Final Pick: New England -6.5