It's sure to be an offense-heavy affair when the Houston Texans take on the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs on Sunday. If Houston wants to win, it will have to find a way to slow down Tom Brady.
The Texans had a solid defense all season long, but they took it to a new level against the Bengals last weekend. They allowed just 198 total yards to Cincinnati and no offensive touchdowns.
But New England is a different beast, and the Pats were able to put up 42 points against Houston earlier this season.
The fire is there, and if the Texans want to move on, they will have to play stellar defense. That means finding players who can slow down Brady.
J.J. Watt, DE
J.J. Watt is as dangerous as they come, compiling 81 tackles and 20.5 sacks in 2012. But it's his patented pass deflections, of which he had 16 in 2012, that make him such a dangerous player.
But Watt was neutralized in Houston's regular-season loss to New England. He finished the game with four tackles, no sacks and no defended passes.
If you're going to beat Tom Brady, it's going to be by knocking him off balance.
And since Brady has one of the best pocket presences in the NFL, that means getting to him time and time again. It doesn't matter if Watt racks up sacks, as long as he's pressuring Brady or forcing him out of the pocket.
That's where the QB will make his mistakes.
The bottom line is that Watt has to be a factor. He can't just sit back and hope someone else comes through. Houston needs his explosiveness, and without it, the Texans are sure to fail.
Johnathan Joseph, CB
Brady and the New England offense have a plethora of weapons when it comes to the passing game, meaning that the Houston secondary will have to be as tight as possible.
The Texans led the league in opponents' completion percentage this season, with opposing QBs completing just 53 percent of their throws.
They were certainly able to achieve that level of effectiveness against the Bengals. Andy Dalton completed under 50 percent of his passes and had just three yards at halftime.
The Texans secondary made Dalton's weapons a nonfactor, including star wide receiver A.J. Green, who didn't have a reception until the second half.
Defending him was cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who was spectacular all game long.
Joseph stuck to his assignments and was rarely beat. He played physical, scrapping with Green to make sure that he didn't come down with the ball.
If he brings that kind of play against the Pats, Brady will have a tough time finding the open man.
Antonio Smith, DE
The Texans were tied for fifth in the NFL this season with 44 sacks, and while Watt had plenty of those, he wasn't the only contributor.
On the other side of the defensive line is Antonio Smith, who was second in sacks for Houston this season with seven.
But in New England's previous game with Houston, Smith was just as ineffective as Watt. He had one tackle to his name by the end of the game.
Smith's inability to make a play in that game was a big reason why the Pats were able to eliminate Watt. They had the flexibility to double up and provide extra protection.
Smith needs to have a great game this Sunday, not only to knock Brady off balance but to also take some pressure off of Watt. If both players can get going, they'll be impossible to contain.