For the first time since the opening week of the season, The New England Patriots appear to be healthy and fully stocked, which is bad news for the visiting Houston Texans….
…particularly on defense. The Texans may be healthy on that side of the ball, but with Tight End Rob Gronkowski having an extra couple of weeks to recover from his broken forearm, the Patriots feature perhaps the most intimidating corps of receivers in the NFL – and far too many options to try and cover all at once.
Consider: New England amassed a record of 12-4 with either Gronkowski out with his issue or fellow Tight End Aaron Hernandez sidelined or severely limited with a high ankle sprain for all but the afore mentioned week 1 – and that their four losses were by a point a piece to Seattle and Baltimore, two points to Arizona and by a touchdown to San Francisco.
There are no mulligans in the NFL, and hindsight doesn’t count – but you add a healthy either one of those players to the mix, we may have been looking at an undefeated Patriots team entering the post-season…but we’re not.
What we are looking at is the most dangerous, well stocked, well prepared team in the NFL who, as the Texans are about to find out, can overwhelm their opponent on numbers alone.
No? Well, the Patriots can go big with Gronk, Hernandez and Michael Hoomanawanui in their 13 personnel, they can go 5 wide with Lloyd, Branch and Welker, they can go short yardage using Hooman as a Fullback…the possibilities are virtually endless – and when they can do this on the fly in their up-tempo package with little or no substitution…
Add into the mix that Head Coach Bill Belichick and Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels are both leverage junkies with designs on making the Patriots football’s versions of a ruthless dictatorship, it’s going to take a nearly perfect effort for the Texans to even stay close…
…and with a defense that features good man corners and a brutal front seven intent on stopping the run, you get a 38-14 New England victory that will be so dominating that it will legitimately frighten their next opponent, no matter who, no matter where…
As we saw in the 49ers’ game, the Patriots can play as poorly as anyone else – no team is immune to the human quotient. But we also saw in that game that no lead is safe against this team either, and there is no other team in the NFL that can flip on the thrusters quite like the Patriots can when they get on that up-tempo roll.
Balanced and eager, confident yet cautious – there is not a better big game team in the NFL.
The guanlet has been thrown down, now let’s see if there’s a team out there that dares pick it up.