It took one week for Tom Brady to soothe concerns that he may be in decline after turning 40, but a quarterback’s age will be among the main storylines when the New England Patriots host the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon. Texans rookie Deshaun Watson will be under the microscope when he makes his second career start against the reigning Super Bowl champs.
Watson’s learning curve was accelerated when he replaced Tom Savage in the second half of the season opener and now he finds himself matched up against the only quarterback in history to win five Super Bowl rings. “I’m young. I’m new to the league. I’m a rookie,” said Watson, who led Houston to a 13-9 win at Cincinnati in his first start on Sept. 14. “There’s a lot I have to see and a lot I have to experience. So, you just have to take it one snap at a time. You take the opportunity as it comes and experience it.” The Texans have dropped six in a row to New England, which rebounded from a rare home loss in the season opener with a 30-16 romp last week at New Orleans behind 447 yards passing and three touchdowns from Brady. “We played them in the playoffs last year. It probably wasn’t our best game,” noted Brady of Houston. “They gave us a lot of challenges and we’re going to have to deal with them as best as we possibly can. It’s a tough team to face.”
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -13.5. O/U: 44
ABOUT THE TEXANS (1-1): Watson, who led Clemson over Alabama in the national championship game in January, finished 15 of 24 for a pedestrian 125 yards in his first start, but he also showed off another dimension he offers by scoring on a 49-yard run versus the Bengals. Expect Houston to lean heavily on the running back tandem of Lamar Miller and rookie D’Onta Foreman, who combined for 101 yards on 30 carries against Cincinnati. DeAndre Hopkins is the top target in the passing attack with seven catches in each game, but the onus will be on J.J. Watt and the defense to slow the Patriots. The Texans allowed 61 points in two losses at New England last season, but they intercepted Brady twice and sacked him twice in a 34-16 playoff defeat.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS: (1-1): Brady had the league’s lowest passer rating after a humbling 42-27 setback to Kansas City in the season opener, but he bounced back by throwing all three of his scoring passes in the first quarter at New Orleans last week. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski re-emerged with six receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown but he also suffered a groin injury that kept him out of Wednesday’s practice — an ominous sign for an already depleted receiving corps. Wideout Danny Amendola, who missed last week’s game due to a concussion, was back at practice Wednesday to help a passing game that got eight catches from running back James White against the Saints. New England’s defense has been gouged for 700 yards passing.
1. Patriots coach Bill Belichick is 8-0 at home against rookie quarterbacks.
2. Watt, who has an NFL-best 76 sacks since 2011, missed both meetings last year following surgery.
3. Gronkowski needs one scoring pass to become the fifth player in history with 70 TD receptions in 100 games or fewer.
PREDICTION: Patriots 27, Texans 19