The New England Patriots have two strengths that have led to their AFC East title. The Patriots have the league’s best offense that has led the NFL in both yards per game and points per game all season. On the other side of the ball the team’s run defense has been ranked in the top ten all season long. These two strengths will be tested on Monday night by the AFC leading Houston Texans.
Even missing tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman the Patriots’ offense is a lethal unit. Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, and Wes Welker more than make up for the absences and running back Stevan Ridley has been a threat for most of the season. But they’ll be tested Monday night by a Texans defense that ranks sixth in yards and fourth in points per game.
Defensively the Patriots have struggled for much of this season but the defensive deficiency has only been through the air. The run defense has ranked in the top ten all season and currently ranks ninth giving up 100.8 yards per game. That’s an impressive number considering that the whole defense gives up an average of 380.8 total yards per game. This strength will be tested Monday night by Texans star running back Arian Foster.
The biggest challenge for the Patriots offense will be keeping quarterback Tom Brady on his feet. J.J. Watt has become one of the most feared defensive ends in the league this year totaling 16.5 sacks which places him second in the league. If Brady does get pressured into throwing inaccurate passes, the Texans are loaded on defense with ball hawks like Kareem Jackson, Johnathan Joseph, and Danieal Manning. For a defense that stresses takeaways, this method has greatly contributed to the Texans’ 11-1 record.
Foster is currently fifth in the league in rushing having already broken the 1,000 yard mark. He’s broken the century mark in six games including a 152-yard performance in week five against the New York Jets. The Patriots run defense, led by Vince Wilfork, has been very solid against the run forcing teams to beat them through the air. While the pass defense has struggled this season, they’ve improved dramatically recently with the addition of cornerback Aqib Talib and by moving Pro Bowler Devin McCourty from cornerback to safety.
The Patriots have been one of the best teams in the NFL recently but against weak opposition. On Monday night they will face the best team in the AFC. The Texans will test two of the Patriots strengths and show how good the AFC East champs actually are. The Patriots have had two similar tests in week three against the Baltimore Ravens and in week five against the Denver Broncos. The first one resulted in a 31-30 loss to the Ravens while the second ended in a 31-21 victory over the Broncos. Those games tested the Patriots but the Texans will be the toughest opponent this season.