As we’ve heard over and over all week long, the Patriots are very heavily favored to beat the Texans in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. Nonetheless, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid of the Patriots getting a little over-confident. Bill Belichick would never let the Patriots believe that they should take it easy on anyone, but it’s gotta be pretty difficult for the players to tune out the rest of the world that has already penciled them into the AFC Championship game. I just want everyone to stop calling it a second round bye and let them play the game. When Saturday night finally does roll around, here are my picks for who will excel and who may not play their best:
Tom Brady: This Texans defense is 1st in the NFL in yards allowed; however, this is the same Texans defense that allowed 27 points to a Jacoby Brissett led offense in Week 3, and even allowed 14 points to Connor Cook and the Raiders in the Wild Card game. Brady has been given a week to prepare physically and mentally, so I expect to see him come out slinging the ball around the field.
Julian Edelman: Since the Texans have one of the best pass rushes in football led by Jadeveon Clowney, Brady is going to look to get the ball out of his hands quickly. And we all know what that means. The #12 to #11 connection will be as strong as ever. Expect Brady’s favorite target to have the ball in his hands a lot early in the game while TB12 is still trying to figure out the defense.
Shea McClellin: Since my first two picks seemed a little too obvious, I wanted to change it up a little here. In the Pats Week 3 meeting with Houston, Jamie Collins was the team's leading tackler. This was in large part because Texans’ RB Lamar Miller is a very effective pass catcher, so they’ll look to throw to him when he’s matched up on a linebacker. This is where McClellin comes in. He has shown that he has the athleticism to fill this role, and consequently he has seen more playing time as the season has progressed. Don’t be surprised if he has a big game on Saturday.
Nate Solder: Nate Solder likely will be tasked with trying to contain Jadeveon Clowney. What’s next? Solving a Rubik's Cube while blindfolded? Solder has proven over the years that he’s fully capable of protecting Brady’s blindside, but nobody who’s watched Clowney play this year wants to see him on the other side of the field.
Logan Ryan: I admittedly have a bit of a biased against Logan Ryan, but I’m making this pick for good reason. In the Pats last matchup with the Texans, Ryan was matched up with DeAndre Hopkins for the majority of the night. Assuming the Pats follow the same game plan, there is some serious potential for Ryan to get burned by Hopkins, who has been surging as of late. Ryan has the size, but he just hasn’t given me a ton of reason to believe that he has the skills to shut Hopkins down.
The Houston Texans: They are set to play a playoff game against a rested Tom Brady (22-9 in the playoffs) in his house (15-3 playoff record at Gillette) with a mostly healthy supporting cast. Need I say more? Didn’t think so.
Final Score: Patriots 30, Texans 13
Photo Credit: (Houston Chronicle)