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Old 12-17-2006   #1
Wolf
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Default HPF: Patriots preview:One for the Road

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What to Expect
When the Texans have the ball…
Against the worst defense in the league last week, the Texans offense managed only 240 net yards. That doesn’t bode well considering they will face a Patriot defense that ranks 8th overall and 3rd against the run (86.4/game). Their defensive line is one of the best in the game and consists of defensive ends Ty Warren (6.5 sacks) and Richard Seymour (4 sacks) and NT Vince Wilfork, who is listed as questionable for this week’s game. Not to mention their relentless linebackers that include Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel who are the leading tacklers on the team. The heavy burden of getting the ground game going will rest on the shoulders of RBs Wali Lundy and Ron Dayne. Kubiak will likely continue to start Lundy, but Dayne should get the bulk of the carries based on his performance in the last two games (187 yards, 4.7/carry). Rookie RB Chris Taylor was active for the first time this season last week and may also see some carries.

David Carr will have to step up his game this week if the Texans have any thoughts of keeping it close. The Pats 3-4 defense is stout against the run and will likely dare the Texans offense to beat them through the air. Due to suspect pass protection, Carr will utilize continue to the 3-step drop and make quick one or two option reads. It won’t be flashy, but it is their best shot to pull off a shocker.

They should also keep in mind that the Patriots pass coverage has been suspect of late, having allowed a 100-yard receiver in three straight games. Their secondary has a gaping hole on the side opposite of CB Asante Samuel, who leads the team with 7 INTs. CB Ellis Hobbs was benched last week in favor of two past-their-prime veterans in Chad Scott and Ray Mickens, who was signed just last week. Asante will likely be assigned the task of blanketing Andre Johnson, who needs eight more receptions to reach 100 for the season for the first time in his career. This will free up Eric Moulds to go to work on the opposite side of the field.

When the Patriots have the ball…
New England runs a balanced attack on offense. They run the ball roughly 46% of the time, ordinarily utilizing a combination of veteran Corey Dillon and rookie Laurence Maroney. But Maroney missed last week’s game with a bad back and is expected to miss Sunday’s game, too. So Dillon will once again be asked to carry a heavier load. He rushed for 79 yards last week, but in his 10th season, he has averaged only 12 carries per game. With a passing game that is struggling mightily, he will need to step up his game this Sunday. Look for Kevin Faulk on third down - he has 39 receptions on the year, 14 of which have moved the chains.

Tom Brady’s receiving corps is one of the weakest in the league and he has his superiors to blame. Management wasn’t willing to pay the dollars to keep their top two receivers in Deion Branch (traded after lengthy hold out) and David Givens (signed with Tennessee), who combined for 137 catches, 1,736 receiving yards and 7 TD receptions in 2005. They replaced them with Reche Caldwell, 2nd round draft pick Chad Jackson and former Texans wide-out Jabar Gaffney, who have combined for 63 catches, 818 yards and 6 TD’s so far this season. The Patriots lack of talent at the wide receiver position have allowed opposing defenses to pressure the line of scrimmage, thereby allowing Brady less time to look downfield.

Their leading receiver is TE Ben Watson who has 49 catches for 643 yards while the aforementioned Caldwell is a close second with 47 receptions for 586 yards. Major Tom has also adapted to a lack of a #1 receiver by spreading the ball around the field. Five players have at least 25 catches and nine different receivers have caught touchdown passes.
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