What NFL experts are saying about Sunday’s Patriots-Texans game

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt hasn't had much luck against the Patriots.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt hasn't had much luck against the Patriots. –AP

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COMMENTARY

On Sunday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will shed the Lyle Lanley persona he’s inhabited lately in the public push for his new book, and morph back into the superhero everybody expects for his weekly three-hour stint.

He’ll be selling what makes him great. His athletic prowess on the football field. Not whatever new supplements his Victor Conte-like pupil has conjured to price-gouge the public with this time.

It’s a strange bipartisanship within the fabric of Patriot fans these days when it comes to Brady’s legacy. Instead of following the political road that many assumed he might one day take, Brady’s life after football (whenever that may be) may indeed include his current role as a snake oil salesman, thoroughly sold by the pliability given to him by electrolyte magnet Alex Guerrero. He may be more Tony Robbins in his later years than Joe Montana. More Curt Schilling than David Ortiz.

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There’s a frightening reality to all that.

But not on Sunday. That’s when we get the Tom Brady everybody signed up for.

Book signings to come.

This week’s picks:

John McClain, Houston Chronicle: Patriots 27, Texans 13.

Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 31, Texans 17. “Rookie Qbs starting in Foxborough in Belichick era are 0-8 with five TDs, 16 interceptions, 50.7 rating. Good luck, Deshaun Watson!”

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 27, Falcons 14. “The Patriots have owned the Texans in recent years, and I think that will be at play here again. Bill Belichick will make things tough for Deshaun Watson, while the Patriots will get the better of the Texans defense.”

CBS Sports staff: Six out of eight pick New England (-13 Patriots). Everybody picks the Pats straight-up.

Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Patriots. Houston to cover (+14). “Whatever the case, Deshaun Watson is probably going to be as confused on Sunday as he’s ever been in his football-playing life. But he’s athletic enough to at least make a few plays and maybe even break off a touchdown run like he did last week. Perhaps Bill O’Brien and maybe even Wes Welker can give Watson a few cheat codes to bust a few plays against a Patriots defense that is working through some early-season bumps. The Patriots will win the game, but with the Texans defense and the Patriots’ muddy injury situation, 14 points is much too much.”

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Jimmy Kempski, philly.com: Patriots. “The last time the Patriots lost two straight home games was in 2008 when Matt Cassel was the quarterback. That’s not happening on Sunday.”

David Steele, Sporting News: Patriots 28, Texans 24. “This is a playoff rematch, for what that’s worth. The Texans didn’t have J.J. Watt in the divisional round last year, or Deshaun Watson. The Patriots don’t get to face the Saints’ defense this time, either — they get a Texans defense that hit Tom Brady more than a few times in that playoff game, plus Watt, who should have rounded into shape more. The Patriots will be looking to continue their latest vengeance tour, but it won’t be the breeze (see what we did there?) it was last week.”

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 31, Texans 17. “Houston can hang around early because of its defense against a banged-up New England offense, but eventually, Tom Brady will be protected from J.J. Watt and friends and pick apart the visitors on the back end. Expect the Patriots to contain Deshaun Watson as a runner to limit the Texans’ entire offense in its attempts to keep up and catch up.”

FiveThirtyEight: New England with an 82 percent chance of winning.

Russel L. Baxter, Fansided: Patriots 27, Texans 26. “We get the sense that this will turn out to be a game in which the Houston Texans win the majority of the battles but the injury-plagued New England Patriots still find a way to get the job done. If J.J. Watt can get to Brady a few times and create some turnovers, it could add up to an upset in the making. A late Stephen Gostkowski field goal could be the difference.”

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SB Nation staff: Eight out of nine pick the Pats.

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 30, Texans 17. “Deshaun Watson is the future. But he’s simply not ready to take down one of the greatest players of all time in the present.”

Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 31, Texans 20. “The Patriots’ defense has been ugly this season, but so has the Texans’ offense. New England should score enough to win this one comfortably.”

Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Patriots 30, Texans 14. “Against the defending champs, Deshaun Watson will start his second career game, which will give him just 236 fewer starts than Tom Brady. That’s OK, though, because it would take Brady about 49 quarterback sneaks to equal Watson’s touchdown scamper in Cincinnati. Texans at Patriots was the Jacoby Brissett game last year, when the then-rookie scampered all over Houston’s defense in a blowout win. As you’ll recall, this resilient Houston team gave New England all it could handle for one half in last year’s Divisional Round. Not sure Mike Vrabel’s defense has the corners this time around, while Brady’s accuracy on short passes can neutralize Houston’s vaunted pass rush. The Texans LBs will also have to stay with James White and Dion Lewis in the flat (and beyond).”

ESPN.com staff: Pats across the board.

Boston Globe staff: Only 2 of 5 pick New England to cover the 13.5-point spread.

It says here: Patriots 17, Texans 6: Respect the Houston defense. But if last week was the breathe-easy game for the Patriots’ offense, the defense gets its own moment by handling the pathetic Texans’ charge.