New England Patriots (1-3, 2-2 ATS) at Houston Texans (1-3, 2-2), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Patriots Stats and Trends
The Patriots are 1-4 ATS in their last five road games.
New England is 2-7 ATS in its last nine games as a favorite.
The Patriots are 16-5 toward unders in their last 21 games.
Mac Jones had seen his YPA drop in each of the first three weeks, but he stepped up to the plate in one of the bigger regular season games we’ll see this season with Tom Brady coming back to New England for the first time. The Patriots completely abandoned the run and put the offense on their rookie quarterback, and he completed a solid 31/40 passes (77.5%) for 275 yards (6.9 YPA), two TDs, and one INT. Even with a pass-heavy gameplan, Jones once again failed to hit 18+ FP. Jones needs to get the downfield passing game going (his aDOT sits at 7.7 yards) if he wants to become fantasy relevant, and the Texans have been extremely accommodating with 18+ FP allowed to QBs in every game this season.
Jakobi Meyers has thrived with Jones’ low aDOT approach, and he saw double-digit targets for the second straight week without James White (hip, IR) out of the lineup. He’s hung 17/166 receiving in the last two weeks but his scoreless streak to open his career extended to 33 games. The Texans haven’t given up a ton of production in the slot, including last week with Cole Beasley catching his only two targets for 16 yards.
Kendrick Bourne passed Nelson Agholor in receiving production (14/181/1 receiving to 13/165/1) but Agholor still holds the edge in routes (154 to 125). The Texans haven’t given up a touchdown to a WR since Week 1 when Marvin Jones and D.J. Chark both scored.
Hunter Henry has clearly moved ahead of Jonnu Smith the last two weeks but both tight ends found the end zone in Week 4. Henry held the edge in routes (29 to 17), targets (5 to 4), catches (4 to 3), and yards (32 to 14) against the Buccaneers. Dawson Knox ripped the Texans for 5/37/2 receiving last week, and they’re now giving up the second-most FPG (19.4) to the position.
Brady finished with more rushing yards than the entire Patriots’ offense (3 to -1) in the legendary quarterback’s return to Foxboro. The Patriots weren’t exactly interested in running the rock against Tampa Bay’s league-best run unit. They finished with just eight attempts overall, with Damien Harris handling four of those carries for negative-four rushing yards. Harris at least ran a backfield-high 17 routes in Week 4, which was also a career-best mark, and he was followed by Brandon Bolden (8), and J.J. Taylor (3). Harris also posted a career-best in receiving production (2/30) and he had the second-highest snap share of his career (61%) in his first game without James White (hip, IR). Bolden is better off in special teams duties, Taylor lost a fumble, and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson is stuck in Bill Belichick’s doghouse so all signs are pointing toward a big role for Harris moving forward. The Texans are giving up the sixth-most rushing yards per game (114.0) to RBs so far.
Brolley’s Texans Stats and Trends
The Texans have scored just nine points in Davis Mills’ first two NFL starts after last week’s shutout loss to the Bills. Houston scored 58 points in the first two games with Tyrod Taylor starting. Houston’s points have dropped every week (37>21>9>0).
Mills completed a miserable 11/21 passes for 87 yards with four INTs last week against the Bills. New England picked off another rookie Zach Wilson four times earlier this season, and they just held the G.O.A.T. to 269-scoreless yards last week.
Brandin Cooks finally succumbed to an ugly offensive performance from the Texans, but he still accounted for 54% of their passing yards (47) and 33% of their targets (7). It’s actually a good sign he mustered 9.7 FP out of last week’s game, but he gets another tough matchup against a Patriots’ secondary that’s giving up the fourth-fewest FPG (29.4).
David Johnson led the Texans’ backfield in snap share (57%), touches (8), and scrimmage yards (48) in an extremely negative gamescript last week. Mark Ingram led them with six carries and 24 rushing yards while Phillip Lindsay and Rex Burkhead both finished with negative rushing yardage. The Patriots dared the Buccaneers to run last week, and Michael Carter and Ty Johnson did combine for 23/109 rushing in this matchup in Week 2.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.7 (14th)
Plays per game: 67.0 (17th)
Pass: 70.2% (3rd) | Run: 29.8% (30th)
Pace: 28 (16th)
Plays per game: 59.5 (30th)
Pass: 56.1% (26th) | Run: 43.9% (7th)
After getting shutout in the rain in Buffalo last week, now Davis Mills and this Texans offense have to deal with the Patriots. Good luck! Rookie QBs going against Bill Belichick simply have not been successful as of late. Luke Falk (12-of-22 for 98 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 5 sacks), Daniel Jones (15-of-31 for 161 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs, 1 sack), Justin Herbert (26-of-53 for 209 yards, 0 TD, 2 INTs, 3 sacks), Tua Tagovailoa (20-of-26 for 145 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks), and Zach Wilson (19-of-33 for 210 yards, 0 TD, 4 INTs, 4 sacks) have all felt the wrath of the Patriots over the last three seasons. The Texans absolutely deserve having the lowest implied team total (15.75) on the slate.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Mac Jones will be an NFL starter for at least a decade, perhaps two, thanks to his accurate arm, and game-managing presence. Until we see him provided with a full assortment of possession-receivers, watching the Patriots will continue to be about as exciting as watching paint dry. All the same, Jones plays good football. That’s far more than can be asked from a rookie QB.
Count on seeing Damien Harris receiving a healthy carry share against a Houston run defense indulging the fifth-most rushing YPG (137.0) and the most TDs/game (2.0).
Brandin Cooks has already proven (Week 3) that he can overcome Davis Mills to be useful. But any defense featuring an above-average secondary is simply going to shade multiple defensive backs to Cooks’ side without anything resembling a second receiving threat. New England is not in the business of using double coverage on a single wideout, but Bill Belichick will align his Cover 1 in a way that smothers Cooks.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Let’s get started with the Texans, who have perhaps the worst team in all of fantasy football. That’s with the exception of WR Brandin Cooks, who leads all receivers in target share (35.1%). The Patriots are giving up the 4th-fewest FPG to opposing WRs, so Cooks is more of a volume-based WR2/3.
Cooks is the overall WR9. At the other positions, their best players are David Johnson (RB47), Tyrod Taylor (QB31, despite just two starts), and Pharaoh Brown (TE43). Their best WR outside of Cooks is Danny Amendola (WR99), whose return from injury made Anthony Miller expendable (obviously, other factors made Miller expendable for the Texans to cut him after trading for him just weeks ago). With Davis Mills starting, there’s no reason to consider any of these guys.
I think this is a bounceback spot for RB Damien Harris for the Patriots. The Pats ran for negative yards against the Bucs’ nasty defense last week, but the Texans are not the Bucs. The Texans are giving up the 14th-most FPG to opposing RBs, and are getting LB Zach Cunningham and DT Ross Blacklock from the COVID list this week, which will help. But as Brolley noted, the Texans have actually surrendered 114.0 rush YPG to RBs so far, which is 6th-most in the NFL. Given that JJ Taylor lost a fumble and got benched last week, I wonder if Harris’ overall role will expand. He ran 18 routes in Week 4, the most on the season for him so far, and the highest in the Pats’ backfield — Brandon Bolden ran 10, though he was targeted 6 times on those 10 routes. From my perspective, it’s a good sign that Harris played 61% of the snaps to 31% for Bolden in a game in which the Pats didn’t even try to run the ball. He’s a strong RB2 this week. With the Taylor situation, it wouldn’t be a shock if Rhamondre Stevenson is back on the active roster soon.
For the first time all season in Week 4, Pats WR Jakobi Meyers ran more snaps out wide than he did from the slot, but perhaps that was because the Bucs are so banged up at CB overall. For my money, I hope that continues in Week 3, because while no one would confuse this Texan defense with “good,” slot CB Desmond King has been strong this year, allowing just 3 receptions on 83 slot coverage snaps, per SIS (Cole Beasley had just 2 catches total last week). That’s important to note, because Meyers still has not scored in his entire NFL career despite 112 catches. Still, he’s the apple of Mac Jones’ eye, and he has 9-plus targets in three of four games this year. That’s tied for #2 in the NFL — only Cooper Kupp has done so in every game thus far. He’s a WR3, but ideally in PPR. Look at this list of players with 9 or more targets in three or more games. Meyers is in some elite company:
The Texans are giving up the 2nd-most FPG to the TE position this year, and as Brolley noted, if you’re playing a Patriot TE, it’s got to be Hunter Henry over Jonnu Smith, given his edge in routes, targets, and production. Smith — not Henry — has been the Patriots’ primary in-line TE, while Henry has played out wide and in the slot more.