FOXBORO -- Though Texans star defensive lineman JJ Watt frequently lined up against the right side of the Patriots offensive line in New England's Week 14 win, 42-14, all Patriots will be on alert to make sure he's kept out of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's face on Sunday.
That includes Patriots left guard Logan Mankins.
"Well, its going to be really tough," Mankins said. "You have probably the best D-lineman in the league in J.J. Watt and then youve got Antonio Smith, another very good defensive lineman. So those two together are very tough and then you put all four of them out there at one time and theyre a tough matchup for anyone.
"You see the problems they give teams every week. Cincinnati scored six points on offense in Houston's Wild Card Round win so that says a lot right there, to hold a team to six points in the playoffs."
Watt will likely see a lot of Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and right guard Dan Connolly in their Divisional Round game on Sunday. But if Watt is moved along the line, the job of blocking the 6-foot-5, 295-pound man who is arguably the NFL's best defensive player could fall to Mankins.
Mankins explained what makes it so difficult to handle Watt.
"It starts with he's got all the physical tools," Mankins said. "He's big, strong, fast and plays relentless. He's a high motor guy that hustles a lot. He's got a great playing style. That's why he's good."
Watt wasn't dominant in Week 14 on Monday night when the Patriots beat up on the Texans, 42-14, but he was very good. He finished the game with four tackles, a forced fumble and three quarterback hits.
Mankins said that Watt's performance against the Patriots during the regular season will have no bearing on Sunday's Divisional Round game, however. Even though the Patriots offensive line kept him from taking over the game, Watt will undoubtedly present his share of problems once again this time around. He's been too good over the course of this year not to. He had 20.5 sacks, 69 tackles, 4 forced fumbles in the regular season and five tackles and a sack against Cincinnati last week.
"It's gonna be a new challenge every time," Mankins said. "You play against him, you see him on film, you say 'That's a pretty good player right there.' Then you go against him and you really know what he's capable of doing. Experience helps you a little bit, but it still comes down to one man versus him and you either got it or you don't."