Patriots

What NFL experts are predicting for Sunday’s Patriots-Texans game

The Patriots are heavy favorites to win Sunday's game.

Mac Jones Patriots
Mac Jones reacts against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Assuming that Stephon Gilmore was going to come off the PUP list and instantly play like the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year always seemed a foolhardy presumption. 

His impending release and subsequent trade this week sounded even more unlikely. 

There’s really no debate that the Patriots bombed on the Gilmore situation, getting nothing in return for the cornerback but a sixth-round pick in 2023. There was no foresight on grabbing what they could for Gimore’s value last spring, when the reigning Defensive Player of the Year could have fetched a much more attractive package. 

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Instead, Gilmore played for the moribund 2020 Pats, seemingly having lost a step. More teams welcomed the chance to throw in his direction, leading into an offseason when Bill Belichick again did…nothing to solve the oncoming contractual storm. 

The 31-year-old dropped nearly 30 points in Pro Football Focus’ coverage grade from 2019 to 2020.

“He recorded just one interception and two pass breakups on 42 targets, allowing a career-high 96.7 passer rating into his coverage. Whether it was injuries or age starting to show in one of the man-heaviest defenses in the NFL, he was not the same player in 2020,” Ben Linsey wrote in his breakdown of Gilmore.

If Belichick could have grabbed a second-round pick for Gilmore prior to the 2020 season, maybe the Patriots would have a second-year player contributing in 2021. Instead, they get a late-round pick that will pay dividends, maybe, in two years. 

The Patriots’ handling of their assets has been one of the weakest points of Belichick general management. Which is saying something. 

And now, prepare for the J.C. Jackson standoff. 

Which will probably end the same way. 

This week’s predictions:

Globe staff: Four out of six pick New England (-9). 

Emmanuel Morgan, New York Times: Patriots (-9). “Mac Jones outperformed Tom Brady and the Patriots barely lost last week. His consolation prize will be bullying the Texans (1-3), who have lost three straight games. Through four weeks, Houston receiver Brandin Cooks has amassed 369 receiving yards while none of his teammates has more than 80. That colossal imbalance makes defending Houston’s attack easy. This spread is too low.”

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Jim Derry, NOLA.com: Patriots (-9). “These Houston Cougars aren’t playing very well as of late. … Wait, what’s that? It’s the Houston Texans? Wait, I didn’t see Deshaun Watson out there. Huh? They said he did what? Oh, I see.” 

Joe Giglio, NJ.com: Patriots (-9). “In the last 40 seasons, only five rookie quarterbacks have been favored by at least 7.5 points on the road: Dan Marino (-11.5 in 1983), Ben Roethlisberger (-10 in 2004), Ed Rubbert (-10 in 1987), Mac Jones (-9 in 2021) and Dak Prescott (-7.5 in 2016). The first four went 2-2 vs the spread.” 

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 20, Texans 13. “The Texans are awful. The offense is bad with rookie Davis Mills and I can’t wait to see what Bill Belichick throws at him. The Patriots offense did some good things against Tampa Bay with Mac Jones. This might be an ugly game to watch, but the Patriots are the better team right now and Jones is the better rookie passer. New England takes it.” 

Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Patriots 21, Texans 7. “The over/under for this game is a robust 39.5, which is about as low as you’ll see an NFL game in the year 2021. That’s not to say it can’t easily hit: Pats unders are pretty strong since the departure of Tom Brady led to a more conservative offense. Mac Jones is actually passing more than you would think, but this is a smash spot for Damien Harris and the Patriots running game to take over. It reminds exactly of the Pats only win this season, a 25-6 thumping of rookie Zach Wilson and the Jets on the road in Week 2. David Culley and the Texans can prepare all they want, but Bill Belichick destroys young quarterbacks in bad spots and Davis Mills qualifies. New England probably shouldn’t be nine-point road favorites, but it’s difficult to imagine them being locked up in a tight one with Houston given the Pats relative strengths.”

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Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Houston (+9.5). “For as good as the Patriots looked on Sunday night, they may be without … most of their offensive line for this one? Maybe they’ll get them back. If so, take the Patriots. If not, get ready for a 13-6 game that literally zero people will enjoy.” 

ESPN staff: Everybody likes the Patriots. 

Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots (-9). “Davis Mills in three games: 38 of 67 (56.7%), 357 yards (5.3 YPA), 2 TDs, 5 INTs, 8 sacks, 2 fumbles, 50.4 QB rating. Pretty sure the Patri*ts’ defense can handle him. This is my survivor pick Week 5.”

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 24, Texans 7. “Following the revenge game against Brady, Belichick gets to prepare his pass defense for another rookie quarterback, Davis Mills. After some pregame pleasantries with his former personnel colleague Nick Caserio, the coach will make it rough on the struggling Mills while also containing his go-to guy, former Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks. New England’s own confident rookie QB, Mac Jones, turns in another strong performance and this time is rewarded with a definitive victory.” 

Bill Bender, Sporting News: Patriots 20, Texans 14. “The Pats lost the “Brady Bowl,” but Mac Jones’ poise as a rookie quarterback continues to be an early-season surprise. Houston has scored a total of nine points in their last two losses, and New England should be able to grind out a victory on the road. The spread is still too high.” 

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 34, Texans 7. “The Texans provide the perfect dose of low-hanging-fruit for the Patriots.” 

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Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 31, Texans 20. “The Patriots are struggling, but a trip to Houston is just the thing to fix that, for any team.” 

FiveThirtyEight: Patriots, 76 percent (-8). 

Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Patriots 24, Texans 10. “The cohesion and communication required by the Patriots’ secondary to employ last week’s game plan against Tom Brady bodes well for the rest of the season. New England can shapeshift with the best defenses and shouldn’t have much trouble scrambling Davis Mills. The Texans have played 10 quarters with the rookie third-rounder at quarterback, scoring 16 total points.” 

NFL Pickwatch: Ninety-seven percent Patriots. 

It says here: Patriots 14, Texans 10. Can Belichick make sure he brings Laremy Tunsil on the plan ride home? 

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