You think you have Patriots and the Texans all figured out. New England passes the ball, usually from the one model guy to the short white receiver or the big douchey guy. The Texans have a killer defense, stuffed with really good players most of the country hasn't heard of yet. Insert a Berman-esque sound effect to describe Houston's Ricky Williams-meets-Camus running back and you've got that team pegged too.
Look closer. There's more to both these teams than standard issue pre-game show talking points.
The Patriots are the only team scoring more points per game, on average, than the Texans. An offense needs more than Arian Foster to score 29.2 points per game. Houston's offense has almost a perfect 50-50 split between running and passing the ball.
Houston's ability to pass the ball owes much to the presence of Foster and a killer play-action section of the playbook. The Texans also happen to have another offensive superstar in wide receiver Andre Johnson in the midst of another monster season. Johnson is averaging 172 receiving yards in his last three games. He also happens to be pretty good on Mondays with five touchdowns in five games.
Since we're breaking stereotypes, we have to mention New England's renewed love affair with running the ball. Stevan Ridley has 1,010 rushing yards after putting in a 71-yard effort last week against the hapless Dolphins. Ridley is the first Patriots running back to break the 1,000-yard mark since BenJarvus Green-Ellis posted 1,008 in 2010. He's only the second player to reach that mark since Corey Dillion in 2004.
Some things haven't changed for the Patriots. Wes Welker is eight catches away from becoming only the fourth player in history with four seasons with at least 100 catches. Bill Belichick has another excuse to run up the score.
Also worth mentioning: both teams have defenses. New England's unit looks like something closer to fulfilling the basic requirement of having 11 men on the field to oppose an offense. In fairness, the Patriots defense did keep its last two opponents, the Jets and the Dolphins, under 20 points.
Houston boasts a defense reminiscent of the Steelers or the Ravens before the ravages of age caught up with those teams. Second-year defensive end J.J. Watt and his 16.5 sacks are part of a three-way race for the defensive player of the year. Only four teams have scored more than 20 points against the Texans this season.
Both the Patriots and the Texans already nailed down playoff spots. Home-field advantage and a first-round bye is still on the line.
Still feeling like maybe you don't know these teams very well after all? Not to worry. This is a Monday Night Football game. John Gruden and Mike Tirico will be there to piece it all together for you through frightening whoops, nonsensical exhortations and telestrator innuendo.
Texans win, 31-29.
Cast of Characters
JJ Watt, Mercenary
Watt had 3.5 sacks last week, just the latest footnote to the Most Outrageous Season ever. If the Texans play the Broncos in the playoffs, it should just be a hand-to-hand deathbattle between Watt and Von Miller for 60 minutes.
Andre Johnson, Faster Santa Claus
Connor Barwin, Future Boyfriend on Girls
Did you know that Connor Barwin is the biggest hipster in the NFL? He should totally date Jenna.
Tom Brady, Rorschach Test
Every day Tom Brady continues to masquerade as a human, it just makes the rest of us look bad. It's awful.
AFC East, Horrible, Always
The Patriots won the AFC East again, yes. But when we look back on the Patriots decade of dominance, shouldn't it matter that they've spent ten years playing one of the worst divisions in football? People notice this, right?
Rob Gronkowski, American Hero
Can somebody please write a movie for GRONK to star in this summer? I was watching Howie Long's "Firestorm" the other day, and I immediately thought of Gronk. We have 100,000 superhero movies, and not one movie starring the one, true superhero America actually has. Can Hollywood please fix this?
It's colder this time of year, but that just means it's an opportunity for all the workers out there to strap up their boots and show the world what makes them different. What makes the people of Boston tougher, more loyal, grittier. This is when the City of Champions straps on a pair of boots, heads down to Dunkin Donuts for a large coffee with turbo shot, and goes straight to work, because this city only knows one speed, and that's full tilt. Just like Pedroia and Welker, and nothing like Randy Moss.
Looking to stay warm on Monday night? Do it the Boston way.
Grab your Red Sox bullpen jacket, a polo baseball hat and a cheap gold chain, and throw a little vodka in that cup of Dunkies, and suddenly you're bulletproof. It'll only be 40 degrees and cloudy with a chance of rain on Monday night, so you should be okay. And yes, "40 degrees, gray and rainy" is exactly how you imagined Boston this time of year. And really, every time of year except summer.
BUT THAT'S WHAT MAKES BOSTON TOUGHER.
Ask the Locals: Texans
If Tom Brady managed to score Gisele Bundchen, what is J.J. Watt capable of?
The short answer is that no one can resist the charm, animal magnetism, and musk of Justin James Watt. If I had to pick a single proper mate for Watt, however, I refuse to be bound by petty and arbitrary limitations like, "She has to be alive." J.J. Watt shatters preconceived notions about what a 3-4 defensive end can do, so I'll be damned if I'm going to be boxed in when I'm answering a question I made up about him. Thus, if Brady gets Gisele, I say J.J. would hook up with Helen of Troy in her prime. The face that launched a thousand ships? More like the face that launched a thousand tips!
Does anyone outside of Houston appreciate Matt Schaub?
Hell, there's a sizable contingent of Houston fans who don't appreciate Matt Schaub. Those folks are foolish, of course. Matt Schaub is a very good quarterback, and he's perfect for the Texans' system. He's occasionally prone to the occasional horrible interception, but who doesn't make a mistake every now and then? Why, just last night, I ate my entree with a salad fork. Boy was my face red. I'll grant you that my faux pas didn't directly result in anyone putting a boot through the television, though I did get a look of disgust from the butler. That hurt. Who does he think he is, anyway? I guess what I'm trying to say is that Matt Schaub brings a whole lot more to the table than he takes off it. And that I'm in the market for a new butler. I'll not be condescended to by the hoi polloi.
Ask the Locals: Patriots
Tom Brady's playing hard to get
Last week, Tom Brady played the classic hard to get game with Brandon Lloyd. For more than three and a half quarters, Brady refused to even look in his direction, spending his time with Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, and pretended Lloyd didn’t even exist. But when Lloyd was ready to give up, something crazy happened. Tom Brady not only looked at Lloyd, he threw a pass his way. And it was completed for 10 yards! Baby steps... The Patriots, despite a depleted receiving corps, need to find a way to spread the ball around to keep the Texans honest on Monday night. And that begins with finding a way to get Brandon Lloyd the ball. So Tom Brady, stop playing hard to get. You need Brandon Lloyd as much as he needs you.
Can the Patriots make the Texans one dimensional?
Believe it or not, most NFL quarterbacks aren’t going to run into the backs of their offensive linemen and hand the Patriots touchdowns. While the Patriots were fortunate to face the struggling offenses of the Jets and Dolphins in recent weeks, they’ll need to find a way to stop a potent offense, and a two dimensional one at that, in the Houston Texans. I asked linebacker Jerod Mayo earlier in the week, and he said that the key to stopping the Texans’ attack starts with finding a way to shut down Arian Foster and making the Texans one dimensional. Even if the Pats do slow down Foster, there’s still a teeny weeny other problem: how in the hell do they stop Andre Johnson and that passing attack? Don’t get me wrong - the Patriots defense has shown some great improvement over the last couple of weeks, but they haven’t faced an offense such as the Texans.
Assessing the Bodily Injuries
1. Shaun Cody (broken ribs, punctured lung, will play)
Cody returned last week for the first time since breaking his ribs and puncturing his lung, which the Texans called "rib issues."
2. Rob Gronkowski (broken forearm, will not play)
The mystery around Gronk's injury continues. He will not play against the Texans, which leaves a big void in the Pats passing game.
3. Johnathan Joseph (hamstring, will play)
Joseph says he'll play with the hamstring injury. Tom Brady might be picking on him.
4. Aaron Hernandez (ankle, probably)
He's questionable but he will play. The Pats like to play games on their injury report with everyone listed as questionable. Don't be fooled. This part of the Pats dynamic tight end duo will be ready.
Gentlemen, Place Your Bets
Let's Have a Statgasm
In 140-character Conclusion...
Trindon Holliday still the only undefeated NFL player - 5-0 w/ HOU and 8-0 w/ DEN.
Patriots officially clinch AFC East Title they realistically clinched in August
NFL MVP Rankings: 1) Tom Brady 2) J.J. Watt 3) Lauren Tannehill 4) Matt Ryan 5) Brandon Moore's ass
CBS should be embarrassed. Didn't bring up Belcher until 12:05. Avoided "should they have played today?" convo completely. What a disgrace.
Story from Dallas just another reminder.. PLEASE.. do not drink and drive.