The only team in the league still unbeaten on the road this season will play their third road game in a row on Monday Night Football this week. Coming into the game the Texans own the best record in the AFC, but many fans and media members still consider their opponent this week, the Patriots, the favorite to win the conference. Both teams have flaws that raise legitimate concerns and doubts that each will try to disprove against each other this week.
Here's What To Look For
Outside of last week, the Texans have struggled against the pass in recent weeks; the Patriots have struggled all year long to stop anybody through the air. The Patriots rank 29th in passing yards allowed, 26th in passing touchdowns allowed, and at times have looked like the worst pass defense in the league. I've mentioned before that the Texans rank against the run is a little inflated because they've built up big leads against teams, taking away their ability to run. Same sort of thing maybe can be said about the Patriots with their rank against the pass, as they are the highest scoring team in the league and force teams who trail them to air it out. That being said, I expect the Texans to have a big game through the air on Monday. Joe Flacco and Ryan Fitzpatrick have posted big numbers against New England, no reason to think a balanced offense with a better quarterback won't do the same thing.
On the other side, the Texans have had their own struggles against the pass this season. As I mentioned in an article in November:
In three games against Pro-Bowl level quarterbacks running spread style offenses (Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford), the Texans have allowed an average of 369 passing yards per game with a total of 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Texans have seen their rank against the pass drop to 19th overall in yards allowed with their recent poor play. If Chad Henne was able to put up 354 yards, 4 TD/0 INT on the road against the Texans, what is Tom Brady capable of doing at home? Being able to spread teams out with four or five legit threats and Brady getting rid of the ball quickly makes their passing attack almost impossible to stop. Those two things also play into the Texans weaknesses with injuries in their back seven forcing less-talented players to cover in space, and not getting a pass rush outside of the great play from J.J. Watt. If the Texans are able to get pressure from other sources like they did last week in Tennessee then they have a chance because even great quarterbacks like Brady play differently when they get hit. If they don't, it could be a long game. With Brice McCain out, who will cover Wes Welker in the slot?
Offensive Line Continuity
A question going into this season has become even more of a concern with injuries on the right side of their line. Antoine Caldwell and Derek Newton both missed last week's game and are questionable for the game on Monday. Rookie Ben Jones has proven capable as a backup at right guard, but I'm worried about right tackle. What talent the Patriots defense does have is all in their front seven so running the ball and protecting Schaub could be a problem with a banged up offensive line.
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