Texans vs. Patriots: Key Matchups That Will Decide Divisional Round Game

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 10: Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots runs with the ball off of a punt against the Houston Texans during the game at Gillette Stadium on December 10, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The NFL Divisional Round game between the New England Patriots and Houston Texans will be decided in the air.

These two teams met during the regular season, with the Patriots prevailing rather easily, 42-14.

It was billed as a duel between Tom Brady and Matt Schaub, with the game hinging on which gunslinger would have the better performance. Brady was the clear winner, throwing for 296 yards and four touchdowns.

The second time around will be decided in much the same fashion. The quarterback who has the better game will likely win the game for his team and advance to the AFC title game.

Here are three matchups to watch during this Divisional Round rematch.


New England QB Tom Brady vs. Houston DE J.J. Watt

The only way for the Texans to win is by hassling Tom Brady. Houston can't survive by letting Brady have the same kind of game he did back in Week 14.

Houston's secondary stepped up in a big way last week in the Wild Card Round against the Cincinnati Bengals. Some of Andy Dalton's poor play should be attributed to the player, though, as he didn't look very sharp.

The Texans pass defense has come under fire in the past few weeks, and the evidence shows that it can struggle at times.

That's why Watt is so important. He can throw off Brady before the QB is even able to get rid of the ball. He was neutralized in the regular season game, registering only four tackles and no sacks.


Houston RB Arian Foster vs. New England Defensive Line

Arian Foster must show up against the Patriots in the rematch. He doesn't have to run for 150-plus yards, but more than 46 yards on 15 carries is required.

The world knows that Schaub is going to be a big focus of the Texans offense.

In the first game, he didn't have all that bad of a game. It wasn't spectacular, but it wasn't horrible either. Schaub finished 19-of-32 for 232 yards and an interception.

Part of his bad game was due to the fact that Houston couldn't get a steady ground game going.

Having Foster run for four or five yards a carry will deflect some of the defense's attention away from Schaub and Texans passing game.


New England WRs Brandon Lloyd/Wes Welker vs. Houston Texans CB Johnathan Joseph

Johnathan Joseph is going to be the guy Houston asks to try to shut down the Patriots' best receivers. The team did that against the Bengals, and Joseph did very well to negate A.J. Green in the Bengals offense last week.

Joseph then picked up a key interception in the third quarter.

With all the injuries New England has suffered, it doesn't have an elite receiving corps. Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker are the two best options in front of Brady outside of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

If the receivers are isolated, then Brady will be forced to take extra time in checking down to his other weapons, and Joseph's teammates will have a better chance at holding them in check.