Houston Vs New England
Week 3 provides a matchup of, perhaps, the two best teams in the AFC, and certainly two teams that are favored to win their respective divisions. Houston and New England have taken dramatically different approaches to this season with New England relying on over a decade of organizational stability, led by Head Coach Bill Belichick. Due to the stellar play of backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo New England hasn’t missed Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski through the first two games, although Houston will provide a much less forgiving test. Houston, conversely, is a team that spent big in free agency bringing in quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller. The Texans are built on defensive strength but Coach Bill O’Brien, a Belichick disciple, understands the importance of having a dynamic offense, something the Texans now hope they have. New England plays at home but the Texans look like the type of team built to win on the road.
When New England Has The Ball
Rookie third round pick Jacoby Brissett gets the start tonight in only his third NFL game. New England, who might be without, or with a limited, Rob Gronkowski, will probably look to establish the run and use Brissett’s athleticism and ability to make plays on the run to open up a play action passing game. If Gronkowski plays he should factor into the team’s attack as a blocker for Legarrette Blount, giving the Patriots the size and numbers to control the point of attack. Houston will look to counter with a strong defensive line led by JJ Watt - perhaps the best player in the league - Brian Cushing at linebacker and a veteran group of cornerbacks led by Jonathan Joseph. The Texans should have the ability to take away either the running game or the passing game and one would expect the team to try and force Brissett to beat them in the air. Still, New England should be able to move the ball enough to score consistently, although they will likely need to settle for some field goals in places where they might normally score a touchdown.
When Houston Has The Ball
Osweiler has looked up and down so far, which is unsurprising for folks that watched him play in Denver last season. Lamar Miller has offered some consistency but hasn’t, yet, been able to take over a game. DeAndre Hopkins is making his case for being the best receiver in the league so far in 2016 but the real breakout star in the Texans offense is rookie receiver Will Fuller. The deep threat out of Notre Dame is a perfect compliment to DeAndre Hopkins and is a great fit for the Texans offense. He has been among the most important players on the team so far. New England will have to choose their poison, and choose their poison they weill. Stopping both the running game and the passing game will be impossible for the team but Belichick will find a way to stop something.
I would expect a fast game with both teams looking to establish the ground game and setting up play action. In this case Osweiler, Fuller, and Hopkins offer a clear advantage over New England’s skill players. As such I would expect both teams to settler for more field goals than they would prefer but for Houston to get 1 extra touchdown and win the game 30-20.
Player of The Game: DeAndre Hopkins