By Gregory Hunt
After winning the AFC South last season with a 12-4 record, the Houston Texans came into the 2013 season with high expectations. However, the team’s current nine-game losing streak has shattered those expectations, and things won’t get any better for them when they host the New England Patriots Sunday afternoon at Reliant Stadium.
After winning their first two games of the season, Houston’s nine-game losing streak gives them a 2-9 record going into Week 13 against the Patriots. The Texans, who joined the NFL as an expansion team in 2002, are 1-4 all-time against the Patriots, including a 41-28 loss in their only playoff meeting on January 13, 2013 at Gillette Stadium. That game was the last time these two teams met. Houston’s only victory over New England was a 34-27 win at Reliant Stadium on January 3, 2010.
Texans on Offense
Houston’s quarterback situation is in disarray. Quarterback Matt Schaub began the season as the starter, but he soon set an NFL record by throwing a pick-six in four consecutive games. After Schaub injured his ankle against the St. Louis Rams in Week Five, T.J. Yates came in as his replacement and he threw a pick-six of his own. Schaub eventually recovered from his injury, but he was benched as the starter in Week Seven and replaced by former University of Houston quarterback Case Keenum, who is the expected starter against New England. As a team, the Texans are a respectable 12th in the NFL in passing yardage, but their quarterbacks have thrown 13 interceptions against only 16 touchdown passes.
Three-time All-Pro running back Arian Foster is out for the season after undergoing back surgery for a bulging disk, but Ben Tate has performed well as his replacement. Tate has rushed for 544 yards, exceeding what Foster gained in the first seven weeks of the season. He’s also caught 29 passes for 117 yards, but he has scored only one touchdown the entire season. The biggest offensive weapon for Houston is six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson, who has caught 74 passes for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns.
Texans on Defense
Anchored by defensive end J.J. Watt, the 2012 AFC Defensive Player of the Year, the Texans have a respectable defense that is ranked first in the NFL in both passing defense and total defense. Watt has 9.5 sacks this year, followed by linebacker Whitney Mercilus with 5.5, but when they don’t get to the quarterback, they don’t get much help from their secondary. The Texans have grabbed only four interceptions the entire season, although two of them have been returned for touchdowns.
Also, the Texans aren’t very good against the run. Houston is ranked only 22nd in rushing defense, giving up 118.5 yards per game. So far this season, this unit has given up 10 runs of more than 20 yards and three runs of more than 40 yards – numbers that are among the worst in the NFL. Houston is giving up 26.3 points per game, but this is somewhat distorted due to the pick-sixes thrown by Houston quarterbacks.
After defeating the high-scoring Denver Broncos in Week 12, it seems that the Patriots ought to be able to beat the Texans rather easily. However, this looks like a classic “trap” game. After all the hype surrounding their game with the Broncos, it might be hard for the Patriots to get excited about playing the Texans, so don’t be surprised if New England plays down to the level of its opponent.
Additionally, the Texans appear to match up well against the Patriots. New England’s banged-up defense might be perfect for what ails the mistake-prone Houston offense, and Houston’s pass defense is well-equipped to slow down a Patriots passing attack that isn’t as strong as in previous seasons. The Patriots will likely win this game, but the score will be much closer than people expect.
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Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.