Why the Houston Texans Will be Victorious Monday Night
The Houston Texans travel to Foxboro, Massachusetts to take on the New England Patriots in week 14 of Monday Night Football. The game is a matchup of two of the top two teams in the AFC with the Texans at 11-1 and New England at 9-3. One way or another, there are some streaks that will be broken in this clash of the titans. Both teams are riding six game winning streaks going into the game. New England has not lost a home game in December in 10 years, since December of 2002. Also, the Texans are a perfect 6-0 on the road this season, while the Patriots have won 20 consecutive second half regular season games spanning the last three seasons.
The last team to beat New England in a regular season game during the season's second half? That would be the Texans, who knocked off the Pats 34-27 in the 2009 season finale at Reliant Stadium. That was also the last time these teams met. Houston is 1-1 all time vs New England. They lost in their only trip to Foxboro in December of 2006. That was Gary Kubiak's first season as head coach. The Texans head into this contest at the underdog, as New England is a 3 point favorite at home. However, Houston will walk into Gillette Stadium and beat the Patriots. They will leave New England with a win that will all but clinch the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs. Here's why this will happen Monday night.
The Texans will run the ball and control the clock, therefore keeping Tom Brady and the league best Pats offense on the sideline. Houston has won the time of possession battle this season by an average of 35:19 to 26:48. Arian Foster, coming off of a game where he only had 14 carries after a 10 day break between games, will be fresh and have a huge day. Ben Tate, who returned from injury last week, and Justin Forsett will give the Texans a three headed monster rushing attack that will wear down New England's defense. Foster has a league best 15 touchdowns, including 13 on the ground which is also tops in the NFL. The last time these teams met, he made his first career NFL start in that 2009 Texans victory. Foster had 20 carries for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns. Expect more of the same Monday night.
That running game will serve to set up what the Texans love to do on offense, play-action. The Texans have the deadliest play-action in the league. QB Matt Schaub has 10 touchdowns to 2 interceptions off of play-action this season. That plus-8 ratio is tops in the NFL. Although opponents know that Houston will run it every game, the Texans do an excellent job of setting up the defense and selling the run. Another reason that Houston's play-action game is so effective is the play of the offensive line. The o-line has allowed a league low 15 sacks this season, and give Schaub the time he needs to let the routes off of the play-action develop. The Texans will hit at least two big plays off of it on Monday night.
James Casey is the Texans secret weapon. His versatility at fullback causes matchup problems for defenses on a weekly basis. He will go in motion, split wide, or catch the ball out of the backfield for a big play. This season, he has 29 catches for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns. With Garrett Graham out this week due to a concussion, Casey will also see more snaps at tight end. If New England chooses to focus on Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels, he will have a big receiving game. The Patriots linebackers are hard hitting, downhill players but are suspect in coverage. Casey will exploit this liability in the New England defense.
Texans safety Danieal Manning is having a fine season in the Texans secondary. Particularly, he has had a penchant for causing, forcing or recovering turnovers. Manning leads the team with 3 forced fumbles and also has a pick 6. Brady and the Patriots love to throw the ball down the middle of the field and between the numbers. He will look to Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez often, which will present Manning with many opportunities to make plays in the middle of the Texans secondary. Although Rob Gronkowski is out for New England, they still will feature the two tight end set, especially since slot receiver Julian Edelman is also out with injury. Manning's coverage on Hernandez and Daniel Fells will be instrumental for Houston's defense.
The rookie WR Keshawn Martin has done a nice job since he took over return duties for the Texans. Martin was dynamic as a returner at Michigan St. and has given the Texans special teams a boost after they had a dreadful start to the season. He has come mighty close the last couple of games to taking both a kick return and a punt return back for a score. In the last three games, he has a return for at least 30 yards in each contest. He is now 3rd in the league in punt returns with an average of 14.3 yards per return. He will be a difference maker on Monday night, as his returns will set the Texans up with good starting field position. This may even be the week that he breaks one and take it all the way back to the house.