With the Texans officially scheduled to make a return trip to Gillette Stadium, Patriots fans can focus on what to expect from their team’s Divisional round opponent.
The Texans enter the matchup against the Patriots on the heels of a 27-14 win over the Raiders in the Wildcard round. The Houston defense was more impressive than its offense, even with the Raiders being forced to have rookie quarterback Connor Cook make his very first career start.
Looking ahead to the Patriots-Texans clash, here are a few things about Houston that New England fans should know:
The upside down division: Houston won the AFC South going only 9-7, which was the worst record of any divisional champion in the NFL. Highlighting the team’s struggles on offense, the Texans also scored fewer points than the 3-13 Jaguars (279 vs. 318), who finished last in the AFC South.
Something familiar about the Texans: Starting with head coach Bill O’Brien (the 2011 Patriots offensive coordinator), Houston has several former New England coaches. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel returns to the place where he won three Super Bowls in the same role, as does Texans linebacker coach Mike Vrabel (who was a player during his Patriots career). And after 11 seasons in Bill Belichick’s defense, Vince Wilfork returns as an opponent in what could potentially be his last game.
Vegas hates Houston: Or, it might just a combination of betting against Houston and on New England, the AFC’s top seed. Still, Houston was only favored at home by 3.5 points against a Raiders team on Saturday that gave a rookie quarterback his first career start. Either way, the opening line on Patriots-Texans favored Belichick’s team by 16 points.
Brock Osweiler actually beat the Patriots once: Osweiler was named the starter for the Divisional round by Bill O’Brien following the win over Oakland. While his history against the Patriots bodes ill based on 2016, Osweiler did beat the Patriots while in Denver in 2015. Of course, his performance in that game (a 30-24 win in November, 2015) was far from impressive. Completing only 54 percent of his passes, and throwing one touchdown with an interception, Osweiler nonetheless orchestrated a vital Broncos win.
Jadeveon Clowney and the stingy Texans defense: While the Patriots hold the league’s best defense in points-allowed, the Texans are the best in the NFL in yards allowed. In the entire season, Houston is yet to allow 300 yards passing in a game. And starting in Week 8, O’Brien’s defense has allowed over 100 yards rushing in only two games. Typifying the physical Houston defense has been former number one pick, Jadeveon Clowney, who is living up to the hype in the absence of J.J. Watt.