The Houston Texans are preparing to take on the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the 2012-13 NFL playoffs.
After barely getting by the Cincinnati Bengals last week, there are a number of areas where the Texans need to improve. Perhaps the most important being at the quarterback position.
Matt Schaub has been heavily criticized in recent weeks and rightly so.
Schaub struggled down the stretch as the Texans lost three of their last four games and failed to clinch a bye in the playoffs. He wasn’t brilliant in his first career playoff start either, but he got the job done. Schaub completed 29-of-38 passes for 262 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 83.4.
However, for the Texans to have a chance against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Schaub is going to have to step up and deliver a memorable performance in Foxborough.
In their first meeting in Week 14, the Patriots dominated the Texans winning 42-14 at home, in a game many thought could be a preview of the AFC Championship.
In the first quarter with the Texans down seven, Matt Schaub threw an interception from just outside the red zone. The Texans weren’t able to recover after that. Schaub played poorly, completing 19-of-32 passes for 232 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a dismal passer rating of 68.8.
In his four games since, Schaub has thrown just one touchdown pass, three interceptions and has failed to throw for 300 yards in a game.
All that will be forgotten though, if he can lead the Texans to the AFC Championship game. To do so, Schaub will need to be at his best on Sunday.
First and foremost, he cannot afford to throw interceptions. New England’s No. 1-ranked offense isn’t likely to waste an opportunity to put points on the board off a turnover.
Look for the Texans’ offensive line to continue to perform well and give Schaub plenty of time in the pocket. That should give Schaub the opportunity to make accurate throws and consistently move the chains.
However, these drives must result in touchdowns, not field goals. The Texans were just 1-for-4 in the red zone last week and allowed the Bengals to stay in the game by kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.
The Texans are 11-0 this year when Schaub throws a touchdown pass and 2-4 when he doesn’t.
Establishing the run with Arian Foster is always important and it helps Schaub to be effective on play action. With that said, the Patriots defense was ninth this season against the run, allowing 101.9 yards per game and 29th against the pass, allowing 271.4 yard per game.
The Patriots held Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Justin Forsett to a combined 99 yards in Week 14.
Schaub has not thrown for over 300 yards since Thanksgiving day against the Detroit Lions and that needs to change this Sunday.
This is the biggest game of Schaub’s career and he needs to step up and show he can lead the Texans deep into the playoffs. Expectations were high in Houston heading into the season and a loss in the divisional round would be a huge disappointment for Texans fans.
With that in mind, a strong performance from Schaub and a win for Houston would come as a shock to many fans around the NFL.