Even without JJ Watt in the lineup -- he's on injured reserve after undergoing back surgery earlier this season -- Tom Brady won't be taking the Texans defense lightly.
They ranked No. 1 in yards allowed during the regular season (301.3 per game), and they checked in at No. 11 in points allowed (20.5). They were behind only Denver when it came to passing yards allowed this season (201.6).
"They have the No. 1 defense in the league. I studied them all day yesterday," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan on Monday. "They have a damn good defense."
On the list of priorities for the Patriots offense this week will be figuring out how to neutralize edge defender Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in 2014, who recorded two pass-breakups in Saturday's Wild Card Round win over the Raiders -- one of which he picked off.
"Not only that, [Whitney Mercilus] is a damn good player," Brady said of the pass-rusher who typically lines up opposite Clowney. "They have two very good linebackers and then they have one of the best secondary’s that we’ll face in terms of coverage corners. They have three guys who can cover.
"Also, playing against [coach Bill O’Brien's] team, and he has [defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel], who we know how great of a coach Romeo is. [Linebackers coach Mike Vrabel], how well prepared he keeps those guys on defense. [Larry] Izzo on special teams. You have a lot of guys who know how to win football games down there. They know how to prepare their team. I think that is why they are in the position they are in."
Clowney and Mercilus both earned Second-Team All-Pro honors this season, while linebacker Bernardrick McKinney was also named to the Second-Team.