NFL fans could be in for a thriller on Monday Night Football.
The Houston Texans (11-1) will visit the New England Patriots (9-3) in what could be a preview of the AFC Championship game. Both teams have clinched playoff spots and are now fighting for the top seed.
Led by Matt Schaub and Tom Brady, the Texans and Patriots both boast powerful offenses. The Patriots are first in the league in scoring, averaging 35.8 points per game, while the Texans are second, averaging 29.2.
With that in mind, will Schaub be able to match Brady and the Pats’ air show?
Houston’s quarterback is having another fine season. Schaub's accrued 3,062 passing yards, 21 touchdown passes and a passer rating of 94.5. Brady continues to add to his hall-of-fame resume, with 3,537 passing yards, 25 touchdown passes and a passer rating of 102.6.
Facing a defense that sits 29th in the league and gives up almost 280 passing yards per game, Schaub has an opportunity to put up impressive numbers in New England.
Schaub’s ability to be successful starts with his offensive line. The Texans are tied with the New York Giants for the least sacks allowed (15). If the line can hold up against Vince Wilfork and company, Schaub should have time to deliver a range of passes.
Schaub’s biggest weapons, wide receiver Andre Johnson and tight end Owen Daniels appear to be healthy. Daniels, who has been battling hip and back issues this season, was a full participant in practice Friday. Daniels leads the team with six touchdown catches, while Johnson has 1,114 receiving yards on the season.
Houston's offense is in good shape, while Brady and the Patriots face some challenges.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been out since Week 11 with a broken forearm and won’t play against the Texans. The loss of Gronk is significant for the Pats as he is one of the best in the NFL in the red zone. However, Brady still has a great slot receiver in Wes Welker and another solid tight end in Aaron Hernandez.
Brady also has to deal with J.J. Watt and a tough Texans pass rush. Even if they don’t get to the quarterback, the Texans are great at getting in the passing lanes and deflecting balls. So good, in fact, that Belichik has the racquetball rackets out this week to help Brady practice for Sunday.
As long as he has time in the pocket and the proper weapons around him, Brady will be able to make the proper adjustments and perform well against almost any defense.
Both Schaub and Brady should be expected to put on great performances Monday Night.
Schaub however, has the benefit of handing the ball off to one of the best backs in the league in Arian Foster. If Foster can run the ball effectively, the Texans won't have to throw as often as the Patriots.
With that said, Brady will likely have a better game than Schaub statistically, but that won't necessarily give the Pats the win.
The key for the Texans will be J.J. Watt and whether he can force Brady into poor throws or tip some short passes. The Patriots' defense has 14 interceptions on the year. If the secondary can pick off Schaub a couple times the Patriots' offense will likely make them pay.
This game should be an energetic, high-scoring and entertaining affair for not only fans of the Texans and Patriots, but NFL fans everywhere.