WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
Statistically, the Texans don’t look that bad. They are first in the NFL defensively in yards allowed per game and first in passing yards allowed. Inside the numbers, though, are the details. Houston’s had five interceptions returned for touchdowns on their offense. They’ve allowed eight return touchdowns overall. So that’s eight fewer offensive drives. Meanwhile, these are the yards per carry allowed to the lead back since early October – 5.8 (Marshawn Lynch), 4.8 (Frank Gore), 4.4 (Zach Stacy), 4.1 (Jamaal Charles), 8.2 (Donald Brown), 5.0 (Andre Ellington), 6.8 (Rashad Jennings), 6.0 (Maurice Jones-Drew). And when an offense gets in their red zone, they’re allowing touchdowns 65 percent of the time (30th in the NFL). With J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith as the ends in the Wade Phillips 3-4, the Texans have plenty of talent. On the back end, Johnathan Joseph is a decent corner. The Patriots are – at this point – diverse enough offensively to make any defense sweat. One playing as raggedly as the Texans have been, it’s not going to take much to get them on their heels. Look for the Patriots to come out as they have in the past two games since the return of Shane Vereen and feature him as their bailout back. They’ll seek the soft spots in the defense and look for matchups and the best matchups – as the yards per carry shows – are on the ground. If Stevan Ridley remains grounded, Brandon Bolden figures to be the first man in, although LeGarrette Blount hasn’t been that offensive with ball security so he should be in the mix as well. It should be another big game for Tom Brady whose season is – given the circumstances – remarkable.