The Patriots and Texans picked up victories in Week 2, although they did so in different ways. Houston went on the road to play the Bengals and beat them 13-9 on Thursday night. It was hardly an offensive explosion, but rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson did just enough to move the team in the right direction. He had two big runs, including the only touchdown of the contest last Thursday night. The defense was awesome, swarming Andy Dalton and holding the Bengals under 300 yards of total offense.
New England's victory came as a stark contrast, as the Patriots went into New Orleans and found their offense in a 36-20 victory. Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes in the first quarter, prompting everyone in the Boston area to breathe a sigh of relief. Rob Gronkowski scored a touchdown, but he also went down with an injury. The tight end was joined by Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett as walking wounded at one point on Sunday. We'll follow their status as the week goes on.
History has not been kind to the Texans in this series. New England is 5-0 against the Texans at home, and a lot of those games haven't even been close. Last year, the two teams met twice, with the Pats winning 27-0 in the regular season and 34-16 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. They beat Houston through the air in one game and on the ground in the other. Overall, the AFC South team has won just once against the squad from the AFC East.
Houston at New England
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Patriots -13
Three Things to Watch
1. Elementary, my dear Watson
Deshaun Watson's first career start led to a Texans victory. The signal-caller threw for only 125 yards, but he also added 67 on the ground along with the big touchdown. He peppered DeAndre Hopkins (above, right) with targets all night long and didn't make the big mistake. The Patriots' defense has struggled the first two weeks of the season against Alex Smith and Drew Brees. Traditionally, they've swallowed up rookie quarterbacks with their schemes, as Matt Patricia is one of the more underrated defensive coordinators in the league, and Watson is unlikely to avoid that fate. The former Clemson Tiger carved up college defenses, but none of them were as tough as New England will be. Watson will be on the run behind an offensive line that has struggled to contain pass rushers.
2. Who is Brady throwing to?
It was referenced earlier, but Tom Brady had a great time in New Orleans, and it wasn't even Mardi Gras. The 40-year-old has put up very good numbers so far this season, although his weapons have consistently changed. He was without Danny Amendola last week due to a concussion and saw everyone except Brandin Cooks go out at some point with an injury. None of the injuries seemed that serious, so I expect that everyone will be available. Bill Belichick rotates a lot of guys at RB and WR, so his teams always are able to withstand an injury or two. Houston's secondary is a little beat up right now, with Kevin Johnson out a few weeks and Johnathan Joseph dinged up as well.
3. Watt you talking about?
The Texans' defense is consistently one of the best in the league, except when going up against New England. Last year, Houston allowed 185 yards on the ground in the 27-0 loss during the regular season. That was one of the three games in which J.J. Watt actually played. With Watt and bookend Jadeveon Clowney, the Houston pass rush is pretty tough to stop, but Brady's been very good at getting the ball out quickly in his career, and even when he doesn't, he manages to avoid big hits when getting sacked. With a secondary that won't be at 100 percent, the Texans might have to dial up the pressure to force quick throws. They managed to force three turnovers in the January meeting, but it wasn't enough.
Not that I was ever worried, but it was still good to see the Patriots' offense click. At some point, the lack of true weapons outside of Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski will haunt the Pats, but not this Sunday. I think the Houston offense will struggle to move the ball much at all. The Texans' run game hasn't kept anyone honest yet this season and won't do so against New England. DeAndre Hopkins won't be as open with the likes of Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore covering him. This is like the SEC vs. the Sun Belt.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Texans 6
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.