Saturday, January 5, 2013
Quick Take: Texans at Patriots
By James Walker
Five things to know about next Sunday's Houston Texans-New England Patriots playoff game at Gillette Stadium:
1. It's the rematch: The Patriots had their way with the Texans during their first meeting in Week 14. New England scored at will and pounded Houston, 42-14. It was a statement game for the Patriots that helped secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage via the head-to-head tiebreaker. New England is 6-2 at home this season and should enter this game confident after the first meeting.
2. Schaub vs. Brady: One of the biggest advantages for the Patriots will be at quarterback. Houston's Matt Schaub could have a tough time matching three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady of the Patriots. Schaub won his first career playoff game Saturday with a 19-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Schaub looked shaky and threw for 262 yards and an interception, which was returned for a touchdown. Schaub must do much better opposite Brady, who has masterfully run an up-tempo offense that leads the NFL in yards and points. Brady threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns in the first meeting against Houston.
3. Secondary in focus: Schaub will have a chance to be successful against New England's defense. The Patriots are ranked 29th against the pass, although New England's secondary has played better in the second half of the season. A key matchup will be Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib against Houston Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson. Talib has the size and athleticism to keep up with Johnson, who must have a big game for Houston to pull off the upset.
4. Containing J.J. Watt: Despite the blowout in Week 14, New England had a lot of trouble with Houston Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt. He had four tackles, three hits on Brady and a forced fumble. The Patriots schemed against Watt and did all they could to keep him from making plays. But Watt still gave the Patriots issues.
5. Patriots are getting healthy: The Patriots should be as healthy as they've been in months. The two weeks off provided time for a lot of key players to get some much-needed rest. Patriots starters tight end Rob Gronkowski (arm), receiver Wes Welker (ankle), defensive end Rob Ninkovich (hip) and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) are all nursing injuries. New England has a chance to peak at the right time in the playoffs with the team closer to full strength.