NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-1) at HOUSTON TEXANS (7-4) Sunday, December 1, 2019 at 8:20 p.m. ET. NRG Stadium.
The New England Patriots improved to 10-1 following a win over Dallas and have now won at least 10 games for an NFL record 17 straight seasons (2003-19).
This week, the Patriots travel to face the AFC South-leading Houston Texans, a team the Patriots have beat in each of the last four regular seasons. New England last traveled to Houston to play the Texans in 2015, with each of the last three meetings taking place at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots will try to extend their NFL record to 10 straight seasons with at least 11 wins with a victory over the Texans this week.
The Patriots will face Houston for the fifth straight year in the regular season and for the first time at Houston since a 27-6 New England win on Dec. 13, 2015, which was also played on Sunday Night Football.
Last season, the Patriots opened the year with a 27-20 win vs. Houston on Sept. 9, 2018, at Gillette Stadium.
In 2016, the Patriots and Texans played twice with New England taking a 27-0 victory on in the regular season and a 34-16 win in the Divisional Playoffs. Both games were played at Gillette Stadium.
Overall, the Patriots have played the Texans 11 times and hold a 10-1 advantage, including 8-1 in the regular season and 2-0 in the postseason.
The Patriots are 3-1 against the Texans when playing in Houston.
New England’s only loss against Houston was in the final game of the 2009 regular season when Houston defeated the Patriots, 34-27. The Patriots had already clinched the division prior to that game and Tom Brady was relieved for portions of that game by then backup QB Brian Hoyer.
Before the Texans joined the league, the Patriots and the Houston Oilers were foes dating back to the days of the American Football League, playing twice a year from 1960-69 and 33 times overall before the Oilers moved to Tennessee following the 1996 season. The Houston Texans inaugural season was 2002.
SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS
By Paul Perillo
When the Patriots run – Edge: Texans
For the first time in several weeks there were some signs of life in the Patriots running game. While it might be easy to point to the return of Isaiah Wynn as a reason for the improvement, in reality the credit should really go to Sony Michel. Michel did a great job of avoiding tacklers in and around the hole against the Cowboys, showcasing some effective jump cuts to pick up plenty of extra yards that weren’t necessarily there. While his numbers were modest – 85 yards on 20 carries – he did a nice job of helping the Patriots move the ball in tough conditions. He should have some chances to do the same Sunday night in Houston against a run defense that is similar to the Dallas version he just faced. The Texans allow 108 yards per game on the ground, which is middle of the pack at 17th in the league. J.J. Watt’s absence certainly has hurt the cause, but Houston has been susceptible to allowing chunks on the ground. It will be interesting to see if Michel can build off his solid effort against the Cowboys and continue to give the Patriots offense a boost.
When the Patriots pass – Edge: Patriots
When it comes to pass defense, Houston struggles in pretty much every area. The Texans allow 260 yards per game through the air (25th), have just five interceptions (30th) and 22 sacks (28th in sacks per pass play) and have allowed better than 41 percent of third downs to be converted, which is 31st in the league. Former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has searched for answers all season as he’s tried to patch things together in a banged up secondary. Bradley Roby (hamstring) and Johnathan Joseph (shoulder) are the starters at corner but have missed time due to injury. Lonnie Johnson (ankle) also is banged up, necessitating the moves to acquire castoffs Gareon Conley and Vernon Hargreaves, the latter being a former first-round pick banished by the lowly Bucs. Roby, Johnson and starting safety Justin Reid (concussion) all sat out the Texans Week 12 win over the Colts and their status moving ahead is unknown, although they practiced early in the week. The Patriots have injury concerns of their own at receiver with Phillip Dorsett (concussion) and Mohamed Sanu (ankle) both sitting out the Cowboys game. With Wynn back and Michel showing signs of life, it would be nice to see Tom Brady get his receivers back working indoors in Houston against a suspect secondary.
When the Texans run – Edge: Texans
Carlos Hyde is the type of power back that has had some success against New England this season. Despite dominance on virtually every level of defense, the Patriots rank 23rd in average yards per rush, and Hyde averages just under 5 yards a carry. He’s given the Texans some balance while third-down specialist Duke Johnson provides a change of pace. Deshaun Watson (301 yards, 5 TDs) also can make plays with his legs, so the Patriots front seven will have its hands full. The Patriots did a reasonable job against Ezekiel Elliott last week, allowing 86 yards on 21 carries, but the task may be more difficult this week dealing with the Texans read-option looks. The linebackers continue to play well, particularly Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower. Van Noy and John Simon will need to do be solid in setting the edge to prevent the big plays the Texans have managed with Hyde in recent weeks. Keeping Houston’s ground game under wraps will go a long way toward shutting down the Texans, but that’s easier said than done.
When the Texans pass – Edge: Patriots
Watson is one of the game’s most electrifying talents. While’s not quite as dangerous as Lamar Jackson as a runner, he’s far superior to the Ravens quarterback as a passer. He’s connected on 69 percent of his throws and has 20 touchdowns and seven picks for the season. It looks like he’ll have his top three receivers – DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Kenny Stills – all available for the Patriots, so this will be a tall order for the outstanding Patriots secondary. Stephon Gilmore continues to impress going against the opponent’s top threat. He’ll likely face another tough assignment this week against Hopkins, who leads the team with 81 grabs for 839 yards and six touchdowns. Fuller is a deep threat while Stills works from the slot. The status of Jason McCourty, who missed the Dallas game with a groin injury, will be important. Without him, the secondary might be stretched a bit thin. However, the Patriots should be able to pressure Watson, who makes life tough on his offensive line by often holding the ball while trying to allow deep patterns to develop downfield. The front seven should have some success getting after him, and Gilmore’s strong work on Hopkins will help neutralize what can be a very dangerous offense.
Special Teams – Edge: Patriots
Both teams have endured their struggles in the kicking game. Stephen Gostkowski’s injury has left a void in New England, as both Mike Nugent and Nick Folk have missed multiple kicks in his absence. Houston Ka’imi Fairbairn hasn’t exactly been consistent either, missing 10 kicks overall, five each on field goals and PATs. All five of Fairbairn’s misses on field goals have come from beyond 40 yards, three from beyond 50. In terms of the return game, neither side has been overly effective. Houston uses DeAndre Carter for both kicks and punts but he’s yet to break one this season. The Patriots have been forced to adjust on punts with Gunner Olszewski out for the season and Sanu nursing his ankle injury. Julian Edelman and Rex Burkhead were used against Dallas but neither returned a punt. The Patriots earn a huge edge overall, however, based on both coverage and the ability to make plays. Matthew Slater blocked a Dallas punt last week, the third time the Patriots have turned that trick this season. Few teams boast the playmaking ability New England has displayed in the third phase this season.
Special Teams Coach Brad Seely – Special Teams Coach (1999-2008).
CB Keion Crossen – Defensive Back (2018).
OLB Barkevious Mingo – Linebacker (2017).
PATRIOTS ON VERGE OF ANOTHER 11-WIN SEASON
The Patriots have won 11 games 20 times in team history, including a current streak and NFL-record nine consecutive years dating back to 2010.
MOST 11-WIN SEASONS SINCE 1970 MERGER
Team……………………………………. 11+ Win Seasons
New England…………………………. 20
PATRIOTS ON SUNDAY NIGHT
The Patriots own a 31-20 record overall on Sunday Night Football and are 1-1 in 2019 on Sunday Night following the 33-3 Kickoff Weekend win vs. Pittsburgh on Sept. 8 and a 37-20 loss at Baltimore on Nov. 3.
BRADY ON SUNDAY NIGHT
Tom Brady owns a 21-12 record in 33 games playing on Sunday Night Football. His best statistical performance on Sunday Night Football came in Week 10 of the 2007 season when he completed 31-of-39 pass attempts for 373 yards and five touchdowns, including four to WR Randy Moss, in a 56-10 rout of the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium (11/18).
Brady has thrown for over 300 yards 15 times in Sunday Night Football games.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR…
Since 2001, the Patriots are 96-13 (.881) when they do not turn the ball over and 94-2 (.979) with a positive turnover margin. In 2019, the Patriots lead the league with a +19 turnover margin through Week 12, nearly double the next-best team (Pittsburgh, +10).
The Patriots have blocked three punts in 2019, which ties a franchise record (1986). With two more blocked punts, they would tie the 1990 Kansas City Chiefs for the most blocked punts in a season in NFL history with five.
With one defensive score, the Patriots will tie for third-most defensive scores in a season (5) in franchise history.
The Patriots defense is leading the league with 20 interceptions through 11 games. They are on pace to finish with 29 interceptions this season, which would tie for the most picks in the Belichick era (set in 2003).
The 2019 Patriots have allowed nine touchdowns. The fewest rush/pass touchdowns allowed in a season since the merger is 10 by the 1970 Minnesota Vikings. Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule, the fewest touchdowns allowed by a defense are the 16 by the 1986 Chicago Bears and 2000 Baltimore Ravens.
The Patriots have three games with four interceptions this season, a feat they haven’t accomplished in the regular season since 1962. They also recorded four interceptions three times in 2003, including four in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts (01/18/04). If they have one more game with four or more interceptions, the Patriots will set a new team record for most such games in a season.
The Patriots have held teams to just 25-for-132 (18.9%) on third down in 2019, the league best. The fewest third downs allowed in a 16-game season is 49 by the 1991 New Orleans Saints. Against the Jets in Week 3, they did not allow a single third-down conversion, a feat they’ve achieved five times since 2000. Only five teams have managed to allow zero third downs twice in the same season: Packers (2005), Eagles (2009), Giants (2010), Dolphins (2011) and Saints (2013).
Bill Belichick is 41-0 since 2000 when leading the Patriots to a 40-point outing. He is 128-7 (.948) when leading the Patriots to a 30-point outing and 210-34 (.861) when leading them to a 20-point outing.
Entering Week 13, Tom Brady’s 532 regular-season touchdown passes are second-most in NFL history. He will look to edge closer to Peyton Manning, who holds the record with 539 touchdown passes. Drew Brees is third with 531 passing touchdowns.
With 58 yards passing against the Texans, Brady will reach the 3,000-yard mark on the season for the 17th time in his career, second-most in NFL history. Brett Favre holds the NFL record for most 3,000-yard seasons with 18.
With 300 or more yards passing, Brady will record his 92nd 300-yard passing game. That is third in NFL history behind Drew Brees (118) and Peyton Manning (93). The Patriots are 76-15 in Brady’s 300-yard passing games.
With 30 or more completions against the Texans, Brady will register his 40th career game with 30 or more completions, breaking a tie with Peyton Manning for second-most in NFL history. Drew Brees is first with 63 such games.
Brady (6,277) needs 23 more pass completions to tie Brett Favre for 2nd in NFL history with 6,300. Drew Brees is first with 6,745 completions.
Brady has 73,456 career passing yards in the regular season, second-most in NFL history to the 76,044 yards by Drew Brees.
IF THE PATRIOTS WIN…
The Patriots will claim their 11th victory of the season for the 21st time in team history and extend their NFL record to 10 consecutive seasons with at least 11 wins. The Patriots have had 11 or more wins 16 times in Robert Kraft’s 25 seasons of ownership after having only four 11-win seasons prior to Kraft purchasing the team (1976, 78, 85-86).
The Patriots will improve their record to 9-1 against the Texans in the regular season and 11-1 all-time. The teams have met each of the last four seasons, and once in the 2016 playoffs, with the Patriots having a 5-0 advantage in those matchups.
The Patriots will earn their 113th win on or after Thanksgiving day since 2001 (including playoffs).
The Patriots will improve to 87-28 (.757) from December through the end of the regular season since Kraft purchased the team in 1994.
The Patriots will extend their NFL record for the most regular-season wins in a decade (2010-present) to 124. The team will also extend their record for the most total wins in a decade to 140, including the playoffs.
… and if a player eclipses 100 yards rushing, the team will improve to 52-1 in the regular season since 2000 when a player rushes for at least 100 yards.
Belichick will earn his 15th win against a former assistant coach. His current record against former assistants turned head coaches is 14-9. Belichick is 4-0 in the regular season and 5-0 all-time against Texans head coach and former Patriots assistant coach Bill O’Brien.
Belichick will earn his 303rd all-time win (regular and postseason) as a head coach, which is third in NFL history behind Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324). It will also mark Belichick’s 272nd regular-season win, behind Shula (328) and Halas (318).
Brady will improve to 62-13 (.827) in the month of December, the most wins in NFL history. His winning percentage in December is second all-time among quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era with at least 20 starts. Roger Staubach is first (17-3, .850).
Brady will claim his 218th regular-season win, second in NFL history.
Brady will earn his 98th road victory in the regular season, extending his own NFL record. Peyton Manning is second with 85 road wins.
Brady will earn his 248th career win (including postseason), extending
his NFL record for a quarterback. Peyton Manning is second with 200 career wins.