Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs. The Houston Texans head back to Foxboro, MA for the second meeting versus the New England Patriots in 5 weeks after the initial 2012 meeting in week 14. What have the Texans learned, what new wrinkles will we see from Belichick, Brady and crew, and who will show up who may not have been so influential in the game’s outcome in December.
We can always count on Derek Havens of PatsFans.com and @PatriotsHaven on Twitter, for answers to all our burning questions – some serious, some not-so-much. Read below to get Derek’s valuable insight. .
@the_halby How much does Bill Belichick change a game plan when facing an opponent they’ve beaten? How many new wrinkles can HOU expect?
Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, so his week-to-week preparation is nearly unmatched. I think when you are facing a team again in the same season, you have to try and do what worked well in the last meeting while also trying to catch your opponent off-guard with anything they might try and adjust to. I would expect several new wrinkles and wouldn’t be surprised to see a trick play of player in an unusual position.
@Frobeus_NS Do the Patriots plan on resting Tom Brady since this game will be so easy?
No, he’s a pretty competitive player. Look for him to start and play out the game.
@HappyTexans Are they expecting a different blitz package from Texans DC Wade Phillips? Are they still practicing with rackets?
We all know Wade Phillips isn’t afraid to bring pressure, so it is expected for this re-match. While Brady has shown that if you hit him, he can be shaken, he is exceptional if defenses bring 5 or more; this season Brady has thrown for a 67% completion percentage, 1,582 yards, 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
And yes, I am sure the rackets are out.
@Rottweiller2000 How has the Patriots defense/team evolved with addition of CB Aqib Talib?
The addition of cornerback Aqib Talib has been critical to this Pats secondary. While his play has only been mediocre thus far, his presence created a domino theory for the rest of the defensive backs. With him lined up at CB, Alfonzo Dennard across from him, Steve Gregory and Devin McCourty at the safety positions, there is more stability for the back-end of the defense, something the unit desperately needed.
@texantakeover How do you expect the patriots to use TE Rob Gronkowski against the #Texans defense? On seam routes of mainly in the red zone?
Gronkowski back is huge for the Patriots offense. Similar to Talib’s presence, there is a big domino effect with Gronkowski in the game. Seam routes and redzone targets are where most of his damage is done. Along those lines, he should be able to clear out the middle of the field for WR Wes Welker and TE Aaron Hernandez as well as contributing in blocking Houston’s strong pass-rush.
@Joeeatstacos J.J. Watt, had a below avg game last time, can NE repeat?
Tough question to answer, my guess is no. I don’t believe the Patriots will allow Watt to takeover the game, but I would be surprised if he was as irrelevant as he was in the last contest.
@TXBobbumman How have the Pats fared when Belichick has had an extra week to prepare for a team?
The Patriots have fared well under Belichick after the bye because of the extra time, but also because they have been a very good team for most of the past 12 years. No matter how much time they’ve had these last two weeks, it will certainly take a four-quarter effort to win Sunday.
@TXBobbumman Will the Pats even bother going 3 WRs when they can abuse our ILBs with their TEs?
I would expect to see the big four: Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Along with them, one of the Patriots running backs would line up and most likely be the offensive package most showcased.
@garciarafael65 Has any opponent made Vince Wilfork a non-factor and how can the Texans do it?
Wilfork is one of the most dominant defensive players in the league and he has been slowed, but he makes his presence felt every game. He does not play in an attacking scheme, but he always ends up near the ball carrier.
Any players we should be on the lookout for who may not have had as big an impact in week 14?
Offense: Danny Woodhead, Rob Gronkowski
Defense: Chandler Jones, Brandon Spikes