The turkey has been eaten, there’s no more pie, and the New England Patriots are back in primetime. New England heads to Houston to take on the Texans in another great AFC matchup that could play a big factor in playoff seedings.
Let’s break down the post-Thanksgiving keys for a Patriots victory in Week 13.
1) Tom Brady and the Offense
Tom Brady is in dire need of a good game. Brady has had his fair share of struggles the past two games, but the offense showed glimpses of improvement last week vs. the Cowboys. The return of Isaiah Wynn helped the offensive line and gave Brady more time in the pocket. More time in the pocket equals more downfield opportunities for N’Keal Harry and company.
Brady has said many times in the past that the job of the quarterback is to put points on board, and that is something the Patriots have struggled with the past two games. They have only scored two touchdowns the past two games.
However, slowly but surely the offense is coming together at just the right time for the playoff push.
As good as the defense has been, it is unfair to expect New England's defense to hold good teams to single digits every single week. Look for a big week for the offense on Sunday night.
2) Stephon Gilmore vs. DeAndre Hopkins
This is a matchup made for primetime. Stephon Gilmore is the best cornerback in the league and a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Texans receiver Deandre Hopkins is the best wide receiver in the NFL. It is going to be tough for Gilmore to totally erase Hopkins like he did to Amari Cooper last week. Hopkins is just too good. He has not been held under five catches in any game this season.
Gilmore missed some practice time with an illness this week, so it remains to be seen how healthy he is on Sunday. Does he still cover Hopkins one-on-one, or do the Patriots choose to put Jason McCourty on him and double him with a safety? It’s the game within the game.
3) New Week, new Kicker, same expectations
New England will use their fourth kicker on Sunday as Nick Folk is expected to at least miss this week with an emergency appendectomy surgery. New England has brought in veteran kicker Kai Forbath to replace Folk in Week 13. The Patriots will be the seventh team for Forbath in his career. Forbath is a solid kicker, and to get a player that makes 85.7% of his field goal attempts in his career is a lucky find on such short notice.
New England continues the gauntlet that is the second half of their regular seasons schedule. The reigning Super Bowl champs did lose to the Ravens, but they took care of business against the Eagles and the Cowboys. The Patriots need to keep winning to keep pace with the red-hot Baltimore squad to maintain the number one seed in the AFC.