There are eight teams at 2-0 in the NFL and two of them face off in one of the best Thursday night matchups of the season this week as AFC East-leading New England hosts AFC South first-place team Houston. And the big story line here is that the Patriots are expected to start a third-round rookie at quarterback in a game that could have crucial playoff tiebreaker ramifications down the road. The Patriots are home underdogs on Sports Interaction’s NFL odds for the first time since 2014. You can again stream this Thursday’s game live on Twitter.
Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots
Point spread: Texans -2.5 UPDATE: Texans -1.5
Date: Thursday, Sept. 22, 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.
Houston is the defending AFC South champion and in early great shape to repeat as the two teams projected to be the Texans’ top challengers, the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars, are each 0-2. Houston is -125 on NFL odds to win the division.
The Texans were dominated twice at home last year by the Kansas City Chiefs, including 30-0 in the wild-card game. That embarrassment spurred Houston to lure Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler in free agency. He’s not exactly tearing it up in throwing for 499 yards with three touchdowns and three picks, but Houston has beaten Chicago and Kansas City each by at least a touchdown. This will be the Texans’ first road game.
One of the most impressive rookies in the NFL thus far has been Houston’s Will Fuller, the team’s first round pick out of Notre Dame. The speedster caught five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown against the Bears and then four passes for 104 yards against the Chiefs. Fuller is the third wide receiver to start his NFL career with two straight 100-yard receiving games and first since DeSean Jackson in 2008.
What has largely carried Houston thus far, though, has been the defense. That unit shut out Chicago in the second half of Week 1 and allowed only 258 yards. On Sunday, the Chiefs managed four field goals and 291 yards while turning it over three times. Led by three-time NFL Defensive Player J.J. Watt, Houston ranks third in the NFL in total defense and leads with nine sacks.
The Texans are 5-1 ATS in their past six games overall but have failed to cover their past six on Thursday.
New England Patriots
Of course Tom Brady remains suspended until Week 5 for New England and his backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, had been one of the big stories of the first two weeks. That is, until Garoppolo went down with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder in Sunday’s 31-24 win over Miami. He was having a stellar game, going 18-for-27 for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Garoppolo the fourth-rated quarterback in the NFL.
The Patriots are one of the most secretive organizations in the NFL under Coach Bill Belichick and they are being purposefully vague about Garoppolo’s injury. Reports are that he won’t start Thursday but could potentially serve as a backup and basically be very limited. The emergency third quarterback would be receiver Julian Edelman, who played the position in college football at Kent State.
So Jacoby Brissett should make his first NFL start — who would have thought the 91st overall pick in the 2016 draft would start before the first overall choice (Rams QB Jared Goff)? New England hasn’t started a rookie QB in 354 games, the third-longest active streak in the league. Brissett was 6-for-9 for 92 yards in relief of Garoppolo against the Dolphins in a very vanilla offense. Expect the Patriots to be very run-heavy and rely on short passes against Houston. Pats star tight end Rob Gronkowski might miss a third straight game due to a hamstring injury.
New England is 6-1 all-time vs. the Texans and won in Houston 27-6 in Week 14 last year. Brady threw for 226 yards and two scores, with Gronk catching four passes for 87 yards and a TD.
Texans vs. Patriots Prediction
It’s usually not wise to bet against the Patriots at home inside the conference. They have won 28 straight games there against AFC foes outside New England’s East Division. The Pats also haven’t lost a home prime-time game to any AFC team since 2008. But rookie quarterbacks are 0-6 against Houston since Coach Bill O’Brien took over and the Texans have won those games by an average of 14 points. Give the points here and go under the total.