Since the beginning of the 2011 season, the New England Patriots have compiled a record of 33-10 in the regular season and this week seems like another in the win column as the Patriots are favored by 7.5 at the Houston Texans. However, among those 10 are losses to teams quarterbacked by guys nowhere near the caliber of Tom Brady.
Signal callers like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kevin Kolb, Geno Smith and Russell Wilson in his sixth-ever NFL start have beaten the Patriots, all as underdogs. Therefore, it is entirely possible for the Case Keenum-led Texans to put up a fight and defeat the vaunted Patriots in Week 13.
Working in Keenum’s favor is that the Patriots’ defense is banged up and in a big way. Five members of the New England secondary are listed as questionable, including the top four cornerbacks on the depth chart. All four (Aqib Talib, Alfonso Dennard, Kyle Arrington and Marquise Cole) were active last week against the Denver Broncos, but anyone could go down at any moment.
Talib was magnificent last week against Pro-Bowler Demaryius Thomas, but the week before was getting burnt by Steve Smith, the 12-year vet of the Carolina Panthers. If Talib’s hip forces him out again, that means Arrington will have to cover Andre Johnson. Arrington has struggled to say the least against the opposition’s top receivers in Talib’s absence and if another corner goes down, Devin McCourty may possibly have to move up to cornerback. That possible chain of events would significantly downgrade the already depleted Patriots personal at safety, for Steve Gregory has not played since Week 9.
The Texans’ quarterback, who will be starting his sixth career game, also has the luxury of the Patriots missing Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly to clog the middle of the line. Due to these injuries, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak should devise a run-oriented, time-consuming game plan around Ben Tate and Dennis Johnson, one that is similar to what the New York Jets used in their 30-27 overtime victory over New England in Week 7.
In the highly-controversial game, Smith completed only 17-of-33 passes for one score, but the Jets rushed for 179 yards and absolutely dominated the clock, 46:13-24:40. If you have not noticed already, Keenum is a better quarterback than Smith. Keenum has just as many touchdowns as Smith (eight), but far less interceptions (two compared to Smith’s league-high of 18). The FBS’ all-time leader in total offense is just missing a win, but the Texans have been competitive in their five losses with Keenum behind center, losing each by one score.
All Houston has to do come Sunday is have their backs kill the clock, their defense play at the high level they are capable of and the quarterback make a play here and there to extend a drive. Oh yeah, and no turnovers. If all goes according to that plan, Case Keenum could have his finest day of his infantile NFL career and halt the Texans’ losing streak at nine.