HOUSTON VS PATS PREVIEW By Brad Lorkovic (LORK 88) Nothing needs to be said about last week, everyone understands and feels pain. Unfortunately, I doubt it goes away as were playing the New England Patriots, possibly the best coached team in the NFL. Dont believe me? Take a look at the names the Patriots lose every year to FA and look at how they always seem to stay near the top of the AFC. It also doesnt help us that theyve got players like Brady, Seymour, and Bruschi. However, the big difference which hopefully we can use to play into our favor is the fact that New England has everything to lose and we have nothing to lose. So who wants it more? Does Houston want to ditch the losing streak and finish the season on a strong mark or does New England want to win their division and start building momentum for their playoff run? Houstons Running Game vs. New Englands Run D: Again like always, weve got to be able to run the ball. As for run defense, the Patriots run defense is everything its built up to be. They currently rank 3rd overall in run defense, and a lot of that starts up front with their D Line. It includes Vince Wilfork in the middle as the NT, and Ty Warren and Richard Seymour as the DEs. Wilfork is best known for being massive, strong, and taking up multiple blockers. Warren is similar to Seymour in that hes very athletic for his size, just isnt at the level Seymours yet. Seymour is still his dominant and versatile self, but has been seeing more double teams so his stats dont reflect it. At the ILB position is Teddy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel. Bruschi is still the heart and soul of the defense and while his stats have dropped off from where they were, he still can make plays and is always around the ball. Vrabel was recently moved inside because of Seaus season ending injury. While Vrabel is best suited outside so he can rush the passer, hes actually done a great job inside as his versatility and athleticism has made the move effortless. At OLB are Roosevelt Colvin and Tully Banta-Cain. Colvin has good size and speed, and is great at getting to the QB. Banta-Cain is decent, but has never been a starter or seen this much extensive action before, so because of his inexperience he is the weak link on defense. For us, it comes down to finding consistency in any of our RBs, and finding the running lanes. If Wilfork is out, it could make running the ball a lot easier, considering it allows us to run more so in the middle. The RB for us who is going to be most successful is the one who can hit the holes and use vision. We cant wait for holes to open up and be patient, we have to run at the point of attack and get what we can. Houstons Passing Game vs. New Englands Pass D: If were ever going to have a chance to attack a team thru the air, this would be the week. The 2 starting safeties for New England along with several other CBs are out for this game. Eugene Wilson (starting FS) is on IR, Rodney Harrison (starting SS) is doubtful, Ellis Hobbs (starting CB) is losing playing time and is questionable, and Randall Gay is on IR. However, Asante Samuel (leads NFL in INTs) is still starting and is a ball hawk. He is a solid tackler, but more so known for being very aware and great in coverage. The other CB will be Chad Scott, an old veteran whos been playing decent this far. At the Safety positions are James Sanders and Artrell Hawkins. Hawkins is a 9 year vet whos always been good but not great, and Sanders is a 2nd year player who hasnt lived up to the hype and has been slowly falling out of favor with the coaching staff. While the secondary may be injured and banged up, the pass rush definitely helps out a great deal. Warren and Seymour are great at getting pressure from the 3-4 DE spots, while Colvin and Vrabel are great blitzing LBs because of their size and quickness. Expect to see a lot of zone blitzes that are aimed at confusing us and forcing us to make bad, quick decisions. For us it will come down to getting Carr protection and time and getting the ball to our playmakers in the receiving game. AJ and EMo can have huge days against this secondary, but it all starts up front and the ability to pick up the blitz will have a huge impact on how well we do. New Englands Rushing Game vs. Houstons Run D: So far this season, our run D has improved, but we havent faced a running team like New England with such a great tandem such as Dillon and Maroney. Dillon is aging and has lost a step, but still shows great vision and power. Maroney on the other hand can run inside or outside, and hits the holes fast and hard. However, Maroney is questionable for the game and missed portions of practice all week. Assuming he doesnt play or sees very limited carries, the only other RB threat would be Kevin Faulk who is better utilized as a receiver. The Patriots O Line however wont make it easy on us stopping either one of these RBs. To put it simply, the Patriots dont have an all pro O Line, rather a solid, gelled group of guys who are physical and strong enough to open holes. For us, if Dillon is the RB for most of the game on Sunday, we need to focus on stopping the run at the point of attack and sound tackling. Dillon has lost a step, but if he gets outside, he can punish defenders. Therefore, we need to focus on not allowing Dillon any running lanes or cut back opportunities. The more we keep him inside with little room, the better off well be. New Englands Passing Game vs. Houstons Pass D: Not much needs to be said about Tom Brady. Ever since he became a starter, his stats have been around the same throughout his career regardless of who hes throwing it to. Given time, he can make just about any throw and is quite possibly the most mobile QB in the pocket. As for his WRs, his main target is Ben Watson whos a WR in a TEs body. However, he also is questionable for the game. At WR, Bradys main targets are Reche Caldwell, Chad Jackson, and Troy Brown. Caldwell has been Bradys favorite WR target thus far this season and has been the most productive WR out of the group. Troy Brown has the best chemistry with Brady as the two have been playing together since Brady was the starter. They always know what the other is doing and have a great grasp of the offense. Jackson is questionable and may not play, but is the most talented of the group with a great combination of size, speed, and hands. If he cant play, expect to see fan favorite Jabar Gaffney, an ex-Texan who was released this off season. Gaffney isnt the fastest by any means and struggles getting off the ball, but has great hands and can find holes in the zones. At TE is Ben Watson and Daniel Graham. However, Watson is also questionable and Graham is better known for being one of the best blocking TEs in the NFL. Hes still athletic and has good hands, but is nowhere close to being the weapon Watson is. For us, the biggest battle is going to be up front. Brady is possibly one of the most consistent and poised QBs in the game today, but last week against Miami he struggled mightily because he was constantly pressured. What we need to do is keep throwing multiple and different blitzes at Brady to keep him off guard. Our DBs dont have to worry about going up against any top tier WRs, but rather need to be sound in coverage and be ready for plays to in the middle of the field. Our biggest test wont be how we can handle their WRs, but how we do in coverage and if were technically sound and as well coached as they are. Position Battle QB Advantage: NEW ENGLAND RB Advantage: NEW ENGLAND WR Advantage: HOUSTON TE Advantage: NEW ENGLAND OL Advantage: NEW ENGLAND DL Advantage: NEW ENGLAND LB Advantage: NEW ENGLAND CB Advantage: NEW ENGLAND S Advantage: NEW ENGLAND K/P Advantage: HOUSTON RET Advantage: PUSH Key Factors To The Game 1) Do no give Brady time to make throws. Brady is still Brady and having a solid season and can make any throw if he gets enough time to do so. However, when Brady doesnt have time to set his feet and throw is when the bad decisions and incompletions show themselves. Last week versus Miami is a good example of what happens when he gets pressured. We dont necessarily have to sack him all the time (which is very difficult considering how mobile he is within the pocket, just make sure that he gets no time to make his throws. 2) Please, for the life of David Carr pick up the blitzes. The Patriots run the 3-4 defense which means theyll be blitzing any different combination of LBs on most plays, so we need to be mentally sharp and ready to pickup the blitzing LBs. A big reason why we need to pick up the blitz and keep Carr upright is because New England is 5th in the league in takeaways, and 7th in INTs. The more time Carr has to throw, the less chance hell fumble and the less chance hell also throw a pick. 3) Play aggressive. Honestly, we need to play like theirs nothing to lose, because in reality, the only thing we have to play for is the chance to upset a team like the Pats who have a very good chance of making the playoffs. Take chances downfield, blitz Brady often, run trick plays; I dont care how much of this we do, we just need to show some fight rather than having this be another predictable outcome. I know Kubiak is trying to evaluate players for next year, but this is a good chance for him as well to show us his potential as a coach as hes going up one of the best coaching staffs in the NFL.