By Charles Jay
What you’re hearing a lot these days is whether Brock Osweiler has “turned the corner” after having been granted a second chance to be the starting quarterback of the Houston Texans. That’s really wishful thinking; the numbers don’t really support it, and that’s not the kind of thing you want to take into a game where you are an underdog by more than two touchdowns. The Texans are in no way explosive on offense, having not even reached 30 points all season, and on Saturday night they will go up against an opponent which has hit that total eight times.The New England Patriots are the top seed in the AFC, and they will play host to this game that begins at 8:15 PM ET at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. CBS does the honors on television, and BetAnySports customers will have the opportunity, even after the opening kickoff, to place wagers and challenge the NFL playoff odds with the software provided by Live Betting Ultra.
Houston won a 27-14 decision over the Oakland Raiders last week, but their defense, which gave up fewer yards per game than anyone in the NFL, had it easy, as the Raiders, because of injuries to both Derek Carr and Matt McGloin, had to go with rookie Connor Cook as a first-time starter. Cook completed just 18 of 45 passes with three interceptions, so Oakland really had no shot in the game.
But Houston had better be at its defensive best to deal with Tom Brady, who had 28 touchdown passes with only two interceptions and was sacked only 15 times. Even missing the first four games with his suspension, Brady is mentioned prominently as a Most Valuable Player candidate, and why not? He was hoping to have a dynamic to-tight end combination to work with this season, but Rob Gronkowski got hurt, so they just improvised another way to go about things. Malcolm Mitchell, a rookie, made some valuable contributions, and Michael Floyd, formerly with the Arizona Cardinals, is now in the fold. Along with pass-catching running backs James White and Dion Lewis, tight end Martellus Bennett and the always-reliable Julian Edelman (98 catches, 1106 yards), the Patriots will unquestionably keep the Texans on their toes.
In the NFL playoff odds posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, New England is a huge favorite on their home field:
New England Patriots -15.5
Houston Texans +15.5
Over 44.5 points -110
Under 44.5 points -110
New England has made it to five consecutive AFC championship games, and unless Osweiler comes up with a performance that nobody knew he had in him, the Pats get to go back again. Osweiler just really never got on the same page as his teammates this season, particularly DeAndre Hopkins, and he was benched by head coach Bill O’Brien in favor of Tom Savage, who also had difficulty moving the team but was probably going to be their pilot going into the playoffs, if he had not suffered a concussion in the season finale.
Perhaps we shouldn’t get to judgmental about the Osweiler-to-Hopkins connection, because they have put together 190 yards of the last two games. But you have to remember one thing about the Patriots; even though a lot is made of Houston’s defense, which has held opponents to 29% three-and-outs, New England has allowed fewer points than anyone in the league (only 15.6 per game). That is something that has not been so noticeable because of this team’s identity as something of an offensive juggernaut.
We can tell you that the Texans had a very rough outing at Gillette Stadium earlier in the season, losing 27-0 despite the fact that Brady was still sitting out his Deflategate suspension, New England had to go with a first-time NFL starter (rookie Jacoby Brissett), who had injured thumb to boot. Keep in mind that the Pats had only 282 total yards themselves, but that Bill Belichick seem to know what the Texans were going to do before they did it, and that isn’t altogether surprising, considering that both O’Brien and defensive coordinator Romeo Crenell had been part of his Patriots staff.
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