Houston -1 @ New England 40.5
Friday September 23, 10.25am AEST
Houston did last week what Houston is set up to do. Play good defence, run the ball, and take their shots downfield when it’s there. They defeated KC 19-12 and controlled the clock by about eight minutes more than KC. They averaged 7.3yps but only 2.9ypr. Overall, with their balanced attack, they averaged 5.1yppl last week.
Houston allowed KC to rush for 119 yards at 6.3ypr but held the Chiefs to just 4.2yps, including sacking KC four times. Overall, they allowed 4.9yppl but KC passed twice as often as they ran the ball last week.
The NE train continued to roll last week over Miami 31-24 but the game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score. NE led 31-3 before Miami started a rally. NE lost QB Jimmy Garoppolo near the end of the second quarter leading 21-0. Jacoby Brissett came on to play QB and help NE hold off the Miami rally in the second half. NE continued to rush the ball well, gaining 161 yards rushing at 4.2ypr and threw for 8.0yps and 304 yards.
They averaged 6.1yppl to Miami’s 7.5yppl but Miami threw the ball seven more times, while NE ran the ball 22 more times to dilute the final numbers. NE controlled the clock for about 13 more minutes than Miami. At halftime NE was out gaining Miami 6.3yppl to 5.5yppl.
It appears Jacoby Brissett will be next man up for New England in week three’s Thursday night game against Houston. Houston comes in averaging 6.5yps against teams allowing just 6.1yps but has struggled to run the ball, gaining just 3.3ypr against 3.6ypr. Overall, they have been average on offense, gaining 4.9yppl against 4.9yppl.
Surprisingly they have allowed 4.9ypr against teams averaging just 4.5ypr but the pass defence has been stellar, allowing just 4.8yps against 5.7yps. Overall, they allow just 4.8yppl against 5.3yppl.
NE, who is just trying to get to game five, when Tom Brady returns, has been outstanding on offence so far this year. They are averaging just 3.9ypr against 3.8ypr but rushing for 134 yards against teams allowing just 116 yards rushing. In the air, however, they have averaged 7.7yps against teams allowing just 5.9yps and they are doing it without Rob Gronkowski as well.
The defence, which is supposed to be a very good defence, has been below average so far but a lot of those numbers were accumulated in the second half last week. NE gave up 310 yards at 9.1yppl in the second half last week after building a 31-3 lead. So, while they allow 6.7yppl against 6.1yppl on the season, the numbers are distorted because of their second half last week in which they were just trying to get to the end of the game.
We don’t know how Jacoby Brissett will play this week being a rookie who has never started an NFL game. But, knowing how well Matt Cassel played back in 2008 when Tom Brady was hurt and how well Jimmy Garoppolo played this year, we can expect him to be as well prepared as he possibly can be.
NE was a home dog twice in 2014, albeit with Tom Brady, but they destroyed both Cincinnati and Denver that year 43-17 and 43-21. The Pats have also dominated this match up with Houston, winning at Houston last year 27-6, winning at Houston in 2013 34-31, winning at home in 2012 42-14 and winning in 2006 at home 40-7.
They did lose the final game of the 2007 season 27-34 but it was a meaningless game for NE that they still almost won. They have always matched up well with Houston. This will be the best team Houston has brought to NE because they have some big play ability in their passing game this year.
NE qualifies in rushing situations, which are 576-389-27, 234-140-24 and one of my best situations, which is 81-28-4 and plays on strong home dog rushing teams. The problem in this game, of course, is how well can NE run and throw the ball with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback against a very good Houston defence.
We don’t know that answer but I know this. Bill Belichick has been outstanding as a dog, NE is a great home team, and they have dominated this series and have some of my best situations in their favor. Houston does possess ex Patriot coaches and players but they had those coaches and players last year and were never in the game. They do have a better quarterback than they’ve had in the past and better big play ability this year, as noted before, but I’m not going against NE in this spot.
NEW ENGLAND 20 HOUSTON 16