John McLain of the Houston Chronicle had an interesting post on Brock Osweiler this week. The crux of it: He needs to not throw so many damn interceptions Saturday.
That’s been easier said than done for Osweiler, who had a terrible first regular season with the Texans. Though he got his job back in Week 17, he finished the season with the third-highest interception rate among quarterbacks who threw at least 400 passes. Sixteen of the 510 passes he threw were picked off.
Osweiler’s gone two games without throwing a pick, however, which McLain notes is the only time as a Texan that the tall drink of water has gone multiple games without being intercepted.
Will he make it three in a row? The Patriots finished 15th in interceptions and didn’t have any played finish top-10 in picks (Malcolm Butler led the team with four, which tied for 11th through 20th in the league), so it’s not like Osweiler is walking into a buzzsaw. Then again, it’s Brock Osweiler, and he isn’t very good.
When the Patriots faced Osweiler in Week 3, they intercepted him once and recovered two Texans fumbles; New England scored on short drives (22 and 21 yards) following each fumble.
That was one of four games this season in which New England grabbed at least three turnovers. This might shock you, but the Pats won all of those games and did so by a large average margin (21 points).
But say Osweiler holds onto the ball and so do his teammates. Better ball security would naturally help the Texans’ odds tremendously, but there’s a reason why virtually no one is giving them a chance in this game: Even when their opponent doesn’t turn the ball over, the Pats still usually win.
The only two teams to beat the Pats this season -- the Bills in Week 4 and the Seahawks in Week 10 -- did so with performances in which they didn’t turn the ball over. The Pats played six games this season in which their opponent held onto the ball, however, winning the other four by an average of 15 points.
Really, the Pats have shown they can win this season whether you give them the game or not. When it comes to turnovers, it’s just been a matter of whether the game becomes a blowout. The magic number there is three, as the Pats have averaged a six-point win in games in which the opponent has turned it over once and won by an average of 14 in games in which the opponent turns it over twice. That average margin of victory jumps way up to 20 for three turnovers and 22.5 for four.
Should the Texans hold on to the ball, they'll need to get it into the end zone more than they have. They finished tied for 28th in the league with 17.4 points scored per game in the regular season; their 27 points against a mediocre Raiders defense tied their season-high in a game. The Patriots, meanwhile, averaged more points per game than Houston's season-best total, finishing third in the league with 27.6 points per game.
While the Texans limiting their turnovers is a respectable goal for Saturday, winning the turnover battle is a pipe dream. The Patriots set an NFL record for fewest interceptions with two this season, and even though they lost nine fumbles, that still left them tied with the Falcons for fewest giveaways (11) this season. The Texans had 24, leaving them with a minus-7 turnover differential (tied for 26th in the league) compared to the Patriots’ plus-12 (third).