1. After giving up 42 points to the Packers, 37 to the Jaguars and 31 points to the Lions, how are the Texans going to hang defensively, especially in the secondary, with the NFL’s top offense by yards and points?
TG: “The Texans have struggled against elite and pretty-decent quarterbacks this year. The return of cornerback Johnathan Joseph will certainly help. He is a crucial piece to their pass defense. If you look closely at Chad Henne’s numbers when the Texans face the Jaguars, he had 354 yards but only completed 16 passes. Against short-yardage passing plays which are a big part of the Patriots’ offense, the Texans are very good. It’s big plays that can kill them and have.”
2. Who is the one Texans player most Patriots fans don’t know right now, but will by the end of the game on Monday?
TG: “I don’t sense that many fanbases outside east Texas know the Texans’ roster all that well, so there could be quite a few. I would go with Antonio Smith, the defensive end opposite J.J. Watt, who sometimes gets lost despite making the Pro Bowl last year, but Belichick ruined that by likening Smith and Watt to Carl Banks and Lawrence Taylor. Instead: fullback James Casey. He used to be a tight end and is often used just like one still. With backup tight end Garrett Graham out with a concussion, Casey will feature prominently.”
3. What’s the biggest weakness on the Texans’ offense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?
TG: “The right side of the offensive line has been a work in progress the whole season with the loss of two longtime starters last offseason. Today the Texans won’t have starting right tackle Derek Newton. Ryan Harris, who will replace him, has plenty of starting experience and typically rotates with Newton when he’s healthy. But they will rely much more heavily on him than before.”
4. What’s the biggest weakness on the Texans’ defense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?
TG: “The value of getting Johnathan Joseph back cannot be understated partly because of their lack of corner depth. The more receivers, the more difficult it’ll be for the Texans. Injuries to their nickel guy, Brice McCain (injured reserve), and first backup corner Alan Ball (he’s questionable and didn’t practice all week), mean they have guys with very little experience trying to fill those roles.”
5. Finally, Texans win on Monday if …
TG: “..they don’t turn over the football.”