Buck up there, Texans fans. I know all week all you've heard is how the Patriots are going to slaughter the Texans just like they did a few short weeks ago. And, yes, instead of facing the Patriots at Reliant Stadium after having had to go through the Broncos in Denver, that's a pretty shitty deal. But the bed was made and we must lie in it.
Still, there are reasons for optimism, no matter what the Las Vegas betting line might indicate. This a very solid football team and it has some seriously world-class talent. With a solid game plan and good execution, there is a reasonable chance the Texans can roll into Foxboro and wipe the smile off
Gisele Tom Brady's face.
Here are the reasons that will happen.
5. In the trenches.
It appears the Texans have finally settled on rookie Ben Jones at right guard, which both helps to stabilize the line and give it some beef to match up with Vince Wilfork. It could be argued that the Texans have one of the best 3-4 defensive lines in the business thanks mainly to JJ Watt. Controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball is something the Texans can do in stretches. They will need to do it, particularly on offense, a lot on Sunday.
4. The rematch factor.
One area the Patriots have struggled is in playoff rematches. Since their Super Bowl win, they are 3-6 in games they met in the offseason but also played in the regular season. Having an opportunity to watch game film of what happened in the disaster at Foxboro this season can only aid the coaches in scheming against a crafty Bill Belichick.
3. Arian Foster.
Against Cincinnati, the Texans finally showed something they haven't had in quite a while: a running game. And the Bengals are a very solid defense. When the Texans were massacred at New England this season, Foster carried the ball only 15 times and was stymied most of the day. But few guys seem to get stronger as the game and season go along like Foster. Look for him to take that last loss -- never mind the nasty Boston Globe column he turned into his Twitter avatar -- personally.
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2. Controlling the clock.
No team has been better this year at controlling the clock and there is no reason to think they can't do that again this weekend. Just as the Texans built themselves to keep Peyton Manning off the field when he was in Indianapolis, the thing they most want to do is keep Brady and the high-powered Patriot offense on the bench. I expect them to get back to their old ways this weekend and control the clock in Foxboro.
1. The pass rush: i.e., JJ Watt.
The formula for beating Brady has been the same for a while now: put pressure on him with regularity and he struggles, just as most quarterbacks do. The Texans pass rush, save for Watt, has been shaky, but Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed have gradually gotten to the quarterback with greater frequency over the past month and the Patriots aren't exactly the '90s Cowboys on the offensive line. Expect Watt to dominate...as usual.