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The Houston Texans’ depth chart at offensive tackle will look a little different in 2020.
When the Houston Texans fill out their depth chart at offensive tackle this offseason, one name erased from that list will be Authentic Roderick Johnson Jersey, as it is being reported that the offensive tackle was not offered a qualifying tender.

Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle wrote the following on Johnson and the Texans:

“Johnson played in every game with three starts last season. Johnson rotated at right tackle with veteran Chris Clark.”

Johnson was a nice player to have on the roster, but he wasn’t the type of offensive tackle that needed to be starting each week for the Texans. Pro Football Focus graded Johnson at 67.9 last season as he played 364 snaps a year ago. He was penalized once and allowed three sacks.

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The Texans will have plenty of chances to add depth at the offensive tackle position, plus they need to make sure the right tackle position is set as well, as left tackle is penciled in to be Authentic Laremy Tunsil Jersey, who is currently on the final year of his contract.

Scheduled at right tackle right now is Authentic Tytus Howard Jersey, as he was a first-round pick last season for the Texans. Also on the depth chart are Authentic Elijah Nkansah Jersey, David Steinmetz, Chris Clark and Authentic Kyle Murphy Jersey.

The starting duo of Tunsil and Howard can work well for the Texans, and if those two are the bookends of the offensive line that right now includes Authentic Max Scharping Jersey (left guard), Authentic Nick Martin Jersey (center) and Authentic Zach Fulton Jersey (right guard) on the interior line, then the Texans have a formidable line.

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That said, the Texans also must add depth for the offensive line this offseason, even by signing players to challenge for all of those starting spots, because this unit does need to be challenged for their starting roles.

Johnson will most likely end up on another team quickly due to his experience gained last season with the Texans with 16 games played, plus the fact he’s only 24 years old, so there is time to learn on the go for the offensive tackle.

NEXT: D.J. Reader won’t be re-signing with the Houston Texans
The Texans are making a lot of changes to the roster compared to last season, so it isn’t a huge surprise they are letting Johnson walk to join another team.

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The Houston Texans fanbase is still reeling from the exit of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the roster with a trade with the Arizona Cardinals. State of the Texans decided to a mailbag answering readers’ questions regarding the organization heading into April.

Covering the topics of David Johnson, Authentic Kahale Warring Jersey, Zach Fulton, and a potential Authentic Deshaun Watson Jersey extension, there are plenty of storylines for the Texans starting the week.

State of the Texans Mailbag 3.30.2020
SOTT-Mailbag
What role, if any, will Kahale Warring play this year? via @PaulMorg88
Hey PaulMorg88,

Just like last season Authentic Darren Fells Jersey returning to the Texans solidifies him to the starting role while Authentic Jordan Akins Jersey will continue his role as the pass-catching option in 11 personnel (three-wide receivers). That leaves Warring in direct competition with Authentic Jordan Thomas Jersey with whatever role is left at the tight end group. Last season, the Texans showed that they will keep four tight ends on the roster, and they could do that again in 2020. A leg injury slowed Authentic Kahale Warring Jersey during the start of training camp, and a concussion suffered in joint practices with Green Bay. Talent is not the issue with Warring; it’s going to be about winning over the coaching staff when he hits the field with the team. He is going to have to win a role with the offense.

Any chance Clowney signs in Houston for a 1-year deal? via @DROBriant
Hello DRO,

That would be great, wouldn’t it? The return of Authentic Jadeveon Clowney Jersey to the Texans would send everyone into a frenzy. Clowney still lives in the Houston area with his family and trains in the city too, but it is a long shot that it would happen. It doesn’t feel like things ended well after a back and forth for a couple of seasons on a potential contract ending with a trade to Seattle, but bringing back Clowney would be one for the ages.

What are the chances we offer Watson his big contract before training camp starts? How much money do you think it would be? via @JJHOU99
Hello,

The most significant factor is the Dallas Cowboys getting a deal done with quarterback Dak Prescott. That will help set the bar for Watson and the Texans. There is little incentive for Watson and his representatives to complete a deal without knowing what other quarterbacks are worth to their teams. Until Prescott lands a deal, it is hard to see the Texans and Watson moving forward on a deal.

As for a contract for Watson, we are probably looking at $37-40 annually, with nearly $100 million guaranteed. Our good friend TexansCap.com put together a mock deal for Watson, and it helps outline what a potential agreement would look like. (Read TexansCap.com Watson Deal Here)

Can BOB stabilize Watson and make him top 5 QB for more than 8 games a season? via @rz19842
Thanks for the question RZ19842,

That is a good question, and it compares to the chicken versus the egg conversation. Is it Watson, or is it the offensive gameplan. It will no longer be up to O’Brien to make Watson tick, and it will now be up to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly to improve the offense. Add in Kelly is the new quarterback coach for Watson, plenty of the responsibility falls directly on him for the upcoming season. Watson himself will need to improve on reading defenses, especially second level blitzes from the secondary and dogs from linebackers. He sometimes has trouble picking those looks up, and it has created pressure issues on Watson.

What’s Bill O’Brien seeing in Authentic David Johnson Jersey? What’s made him trade rather than just wait for a decent free agent to shake loose? via @randomdogname
Hey RandomDogName,

There are a few things that occurred for David Johnson to be acquired by the Texans. It took Carlos Hyde to turn down a deal, DeAndre Hopkins to have contract demands the Texans were unwilling to meet and Bill O’Brien in all of his trades bring back a player that they feel have worth to their roster.

In this case, it was Johnson.

The Texans did not want to create two roster holes, and by landing Johnson, it gives them two backs in David and Authentic Duke Johnson Jersey that they feel can expand their offense every down.

Remember last season when Hyde was on the field, 16 passing targets in 526 offensive snaps. With Hyde on the field, it made the running back position a non-factor in the passing game, and they felt Johnson brings them two running backs that make the defense defend every offensive player on the field.

Last season, Johnson lined up in the slot for 67 snaps and during his All-Pro season in 2016 Johnson not only lined up in the backfield but he was able to line up in the slot (76 snaps) and out wide (121 snaps). His ability to move in the formation only expands the Texans offense with him on the field making the defense match up players snap to snap.

Right or wrong, getting a player back that can help their offense was a priority in the deal to prevent more roster issues.

I would not rule out another running back showing up via the draft or free agency.

Is RB still a possibility with one of the earlier picks? via @DBAMOS
Hi DBRAMOS,

With two second-round picks plus the third-round pick have some value to them, there is reason to think running back could be had later in the draft. The Texans have three seventh-round selections plus moves to land undrafted free agents post-draft.

Also, keep an eye on Karan Higdon Jr., who will be back in the fold after showing up to the Texans last season after injuring his knee training during the off-season. He had a strong ending to training camp and the preseason, which allowed him to spend the entire season with the team on the practice squad. Landing a reserve/futures deal at the end of the season, Higdon is one player to keep a pulse on heading into the off-season.

Out of our receiver pool, who do we think Watson will lean on the most? via @greekgodofhair
Hey Ashby,

The grand plan would be to continue to make Will Fuller V the explosive playmaker he is, but with his injury history, it is hard to feel comfortable with that plan. My early guess a player like Randall Cobb could rake in the reception being the slot receiver with experience in the offense. It would be the first time a real slot player would be in the Texans offense since O’Brien took over in 2014. With how much 11-personnel the Texans like playing, it will leave Cobb in the middle of the field in Watson’s sights to make plays. My early guess is that Cobb will be a catching machine in the middle of the formation.

Are the Texans relying on scheme changes to improve the defense? No new pass rushers have been added and waiting for the draft is a mistake imo via @keyfro
Hello, keyfro,

The best part of this is that your question is being answered on March 30th, 2020. This means that there are nearly four months until the season starts, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, the season timeline is up in the air for the start of the season. If anything, there is plenty of time for a free-agent signing, the NFL Draft, roster moves before week one even kicks off. The Texans need a pass rush to help their defense out, and that is the lifeline for any defense. What should not be overlooked is that the Texans are looking for growth from both Authentic Charles Omenihu Jersey and Authentic Jacob Martin Jersey the second year in the system and a possible bounce back from injury from Authentic Duke Ejiofor Jersey. Now, it will not hurt for the Texans to draft another pass rusher, but they have three younger players to add to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the upcoming season.

Is it reasonable to expect a guard drafted in the second round to replace Fulton at RG do that we can let Fulton go and save his cap space? via @jeffshadwick
Hello Jeff,

I think it is odd that most want Authentic Zach Fulton Jersey runoff for his “cap money,” especially when finding continuity on the offensive line has been something that has escaped them over the past few years. Last season was the first time in a while that an offensive line has been a solid group, and pulling the plug on Fulton makes little sense to me. His cap space is not needed at the moment and blowing up the right guard just because it makes little sense at the moment. The Texans should be looking to make the offensive line their strength heading into 2020. With little turnover, they can go into the season with the group answered and ready to go working with Deshaun Watson again, improving on a promising start as a group in 2019. I would not rule out the Texans finding a way to land a guard for their interior, but it does not feel like a priority for the upcoming season with their starting offensive line intact and Fulton being a solid player at right guard.

Is Bill in the hot seat? via @CastellanoLip
Hello Castellano,

As much as everyone wants to see Bill O’Brien gone, it is hard even to see that happening. O’Brien has to keep ownership privy to moves that are taking place, and unless he starts tanking in the win-loss column, that is what ultimately matters. O’Brien’s three division titles are tied for the most by any active head coach in their first five years, and his 42 career victories stand as the most by any head coach in franchise history through their first five years. Wins and losses are what matter at this point.

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The Houston Texans have had a bit of a strange offseason, and before the 2019 season, the reigning AFC South champions still have questions.
The Houston Texans are around one month away from their official training camp beginning, but before anyone looks that far ahead on the summer calendar, the Texans still have work to do and they aren’t the only ones who know that.

ESPN.com had various staff reports come up with an “offseason power rankings” where they have the 2018 AFC South champion Texans in the category of “too soon to tell,” due to how they’ve attacked their offseason. That said, the list had the Cleveland Browns in the “elite” category for all of the changes they’ve made over the past couple seasons.

The “too soon to tell” category, which is the last category on their list, consists of 15 teams as the jury is still out on how well or not so well their offseason has gone, and to be honest, that is a very understandable ranking for the Texans this offseason.

Remember, the Texans fired now former general manager Brian Gaine earlier this month so that leaves a void in the front office. They were also hit with tampering charges by the New England Patriots — though they were later dropped — as they were pursuing Nick Caserio for their vacant general manager spot.

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Is the Houston Texans offensive line improving for the 2019 season?
Houston is also questionable on the offensive line for 2019, especially following their ’18 showing. Even though the Texans drafted two players with three picks in rounds one and two of the 2019 NFL Draft, who knows when Tytus Howard and Max Scharping will be ready for NFL action on the offensive line.

That brings everything back to the ESPN.com ranking of the Texans, as Texans reporter Sarah Barshop wrote the following on the Texans’ biggest question that still needs to be answered this offseason:

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“Who will play left tackle? This has been the question since the Texans traded Duane Brown to the Seahawks in 2017. Houston made some moves this offseason, but whether or not the offensive line has improved will depend on whether Howard can step in and play well in his rookie season.”

I can’t agree with this statement any more because the Texans do need to improve immensely on the offensive line. Until that problem is taken care of — they were one of the worst units in the entire NFL last season — the Texans will struggle when games matter the most.

Houston is banking on their current roster of offensive linemen to get the job done, show great improvement and for their rookies to develop.

NEXT: Houston Texans: Who are the odd men out at TE in 2019?
Who knows if any of that will occur this season, but one thing is for certain: once training camp rolls around and the players get their pads on, we’ll all know who has gained the needed improvement, and which players have not.

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HOUSTON — After finishing the season ranked 28th in the NFL in passing defense, the Houston Texans have some work to do on their secondary.

There is one place head coach Bill O’Brien would like general manager Brian Gaine to start.

“There’s no doubt we would love to have Tyrann [Mathieu] back,” O’Brien said last week at the NFL scouting combine.

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And while the Texans head coach said several times that the free-agency aspect of the game is “a business” and that “it takes two to tango,” there’s no doubt Mathieu was one of few bright spots in Houston’s pass defense last season.

The former Arizona Cardinals safety quickly became a leader in the locker room after joining the team last March and was a difference-maker on the field as well. Mathieu was brought in to play safety, but he was moved around the field because of injuries in the secondary. He bet on himself last offseason when he signed a one-year, $7 million contract, and it paid off. Mathieu is set to receive a big payday from someone this offseason.

“He’s a guy that really meant a lot to our locker room,” O’Brien said. “I’ve said it time and time again, this guy came in and was there from the offseason program and then at the end of training camp was voted a team captain. I think that says a lot about the impact he had, not just as a player — he’s a good football player, he’s a smart football player, he’s a versatile player — but also, what he meant leadership-wise in the locker room.”

The Texans have another veteran entering free agency in longtime Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson, who was the Texans’ first-round pick in 2010. The veteran moved from corner to safety last offseason and had a lot of success at the position early in the season, but he ended up primarily playing cornerback, again, because of injuries.

“Kareem had a really good year for us, also,” O’Brien said. “Again, he’s a versatile player. He’s a guy that has leadership qualities. He’s been with us since the day I walked in here. He’s an original Texan, was drafted as a Texan and has had a good career here.”

Jackson is coming off of his best NFL season, with a career-high 87 tackles and 17 passes defended. He also had two interceptions, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a sack. Though the team valued what Jackson did last season, it seems unlikely it would bring back both Mathieu and Jackson, especially if Jackson returns to playing safety. With Justin Reid coming off a successful rookie season, only one of Jackson or Mathieu is necessary.

The Texans’ first noteworthy roster move of the offseason was in their secondary. On Tuesday they released Kevin Johnson, who would have been owed more than $9 million for his fifth-year option if he was on the roster at the beginning of the new NFL year. The 2015 first-round pick missed the majority of the 2018 season after suffering a concussion in the opener against the Patriots and has played in only 35 games in his first four seasons. While it’s possible Johnson could return on a cheaper contract, the Texans were not willing to pay him top dollar at the position; he was set to make more per season than veteran cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Aaron Colvin.

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Joseph will return for the second year of the two-year, $10 million contract he signed a year ago after a strong season at age 34. Houston will hope for more from Colvin, who signed a four-year deal worth $34 million in 2018. Colvin missed time last season after injuring his ankle, but even after he returned, he did not play at the level the Texans were hoping for when they signed him and was a healthy scratch down the stretch.

“[Colvin] probably expected himself to play and perform better, too,” Gaine said. “I would say this: Aaron dealt with some injury last year. Unfortunately, he tried to come back from that injury and probably didn’t play as well as he hoped, so we’re hoping Year 2 of free agency, you get a better dividend and more contributions from the nickel position.”

The front seven is obviously the highlight and focal point of the Houston defense right now — it’s hard for that not to be the case when J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are lining up together — but it’s not hard to see just how good the unit could be. The defense gave up an average of just 19.8 points per game last season, tied for fourth in the NFL, despite all the changes in the secondary. In 2016, Houston thrived defensively with a cornerback trio of Jackson, Joseph and A.J. Bouye. Since Bouye’s departure, there has been a big hole in the secondary.

“On the defensive side of the ball, the strength of our team, obviously, sits in the front seven. As much as you can pressure the quarterback, stress the quarterback, stress the football, that’s critically important,” Gaine said. “At corner, we’re dealing with some free-agent situations and we have to navigate that over the next coming weeks. So, we’ll continue to try to build the defense and make it a strength of the team.”

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BOSTON (CBS) — Football fans in New England may not take too seriously the football team known as the Houston Texans. That’s not without reason.

Ever since the franchise was established in 2002, the Texans have served as a bit of a punching bag for the New England Patriots. The two teams have met head-to-head 10 times. The Patriots have won nine of those games. Two of them came in the postseason. The Patriots have won seven straight vs. Houston, dating back to the infamous “Varsity Jacket Game.” New England has outscored Houston by an average of 16 points in those seven games, and that includes a 27-0 Patriots victory when Jacoby Brissett made a start at quarterback in Week 3 of his rookie season.
Bob McNair may be listed as the Texans’ owner, but for the better part of two decades, the Patriots can lay equal claim.

Alas, things do change, and with regard to sentiments toward the football team from Houston, it’s time to properly set expectations.

In just a few short days, the Texans will be visiting Gillette Stadium to open the 2018 season. While every season has its own set of unknowns prior to kickoff, this year figures to be a rather unique one for the Patriots. There was, of course, the offseason of melodrama involving the quarterback, the head coach and the owner (with some contribution from the all-world tight end, too). That matter has seemingly cooled down, but several questions nevertheless remain about the potency of this year’s Patriots team. Specifically, the lack of impact players on the depth chart at receiver figures to be a potentially fatal flaw.

But pushing aside whatever questions may or may not exist about the 2018 Patriots, for the purposes of this week, there’s enough reason to believe the Texans will enter Gillette Stadium as a dangerous team — one fully capable of starting the year with an upset victory over Bill Belichick and Co.

Here are but a few reasons why.

Deshaun Watson Almost Did It Last Year

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Deshaun Watson (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Somewhat lost in the fog of the Super Bowl loss are the details of the 2017 regular season for the Patriots. And early in that season, on an unseasonably hot day in Foxboro, a rookie quarterback making his first road start came this close to beating the team that would prove to be the best in the AFC. This close.

Obviously, “close” only counts in horseshoes, darts, and hand grenades. But that narrow victory for the Patriots should instill a healthy level of awareness that a victory to start this season is anything but a cinch.

In that game, Watson had at least one “rookie” moment, as he threw a pick to Stephon Gilmore that was … bad. But, prior to throwing another interception on a Hail Mary in the game’s closing seconds, Watson had completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 41 yards on seven carries. (And the way he looked off Devin McCourty before throwing a dart for a touchdown on a deep post was exceptional.)

The point is, provided Watson is athletically at his peak in his recovery from a torn knee, the kid clearly won’t be fazed by the task of walking into Foxboro and succeeding. He’s done it before, and he should feel plenty confident that he can do it again.

J.J. Watt Is (Probably) Healthy

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J.J. Watt (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

J.J. Watt is certainly among the most dynamic players in the NFL. He is a one-man game-changer. But if you only watched Patriots games, you’d never know this.

Of Watt’s 76 career sacks, zero have come against the New England Patriots. (He does have one half-sack in a postseason game.) A four-time All-Pro, a four-time Pro Bowler, and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Watt has largely been neutralized whenever he’s gone up against a Belichick-coached team. He also missed the Texans’ loss to New England in the 2016 postseason due to injury, which he re-injured in Week 3 of that year in Foxboro.

Now, in a Week 1 matchup, fresh as he’ll ever be, and with some questions on New England’s offensive line heading into the year, Watt figures to be primed to make his presence felt for the first time against the Patriots. Even if Watt doesn’t accumulate stats himself, if he can be a force, he can open up opportunities for the rest of the playmakers on the Houston front seven — Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus chief among them.

In last year’s meeting, the Texans sacked Brady five times. Clowney scored a touchdown on a Mercilus strip sack. Brady survived — and thrived — but it was far from easy.

DeAndre Hopkins Remains Rather Dangerous

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DeAndre Hopkins (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Malcolm Butler out, Eric Rowe in. How will things turn out? Well, DeAndre Hopkins figures to provide an early answer to that question.

With Super Bowl LII serving as everybody’s most recent memory of the Patriots’ pass defense (or lack thereof), there’s clearly a need for significant improvement in 2018. In terms of defensive backs, the only major change was the departure of Butler via free agency and the addition of veteran Jason McCourty via trade. The Patriots drafted Duke Dawson with a second-round pick, but an injury prevented anyone from learning much about his game in the preseason.

In any event, no matter which players are lined up in New England’s secondary, Hopkins is always going to be a problem. This is a young man who has averaged 90 receptions, 1,266 yards, and 8.5 touchdowns over the past four seasons, despite the list of quarterbacks throwing to him looking like this: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Ryan Mallett, Tom Savage, Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler, and the aforementioned Watson. There may be no greater feat accomplished in recent years in the NFL than that.

In some prior years, Logan Ryan did a solid job of covering Watson whenever the two teams met. But with Ryan gone last year (and with a capable quarterback under center for Houston), Hopkins caught seven passes for 76 yards in Houston’s trip to Foxboro. Only one pass intended for Hopkins went for an incompletion. He also drew a 34-yard pass interference penalty on Gilmore.

Hopkins obviously won’t be the only receiving threat on Sunday — Will Fuller remains among the fastest receivers in the sport, and Bruce Ellington caught a touchdown in New England last year — but like Watt on the defense, his own dominance can open up a number of opportunities for his teammates.

Who Fills The Cooks Role?

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Brandin Cooks (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

For whatever reason, many football fans in New England seemed to have been underwhelmed by Brandin Cooks’ lone season in New England. That is a story for another day (the list of receivers who arrive in Foxboro and immediately put up a thousand-yard season is … short), but for the purpose of assessing this week, it’s clear that someone is going to have to step up for the Patriots at wide receiver.

Last year, when it came to attacking the Texans’ defense, Tom Brady looked to two men: Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks. The former will be there this weekend, but the latter will not. And there’s no clear and obvious candidate to make up for the loss.

Cooks was targeted on seven passes last year, catching five of them for 131 yards and two touchdowns. That of course included the game-winning touchdown with 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter … a catch that maybe wasn’t a catch. Regardless, it counted, and Cooks finished with his best regular-season performance as a member of the Patriots.

On Sunday, the Patriots will have Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson available at wide receiver, along with newcomer Chad Hansen. None seem capable of replicating Cooks’ performance, so the task of putting up 30-plus points against Houston becomes exponentially more difficult.

Add in that Tyrann Mathieu will now be flying around the secondary for Houston, and this game figures to be a potential grind for the Patriots’ offense.

Brady May Have To Be Perfect

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Deshaun Watson and Tom Brady (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Tom Brady is a Hall of Famer. Most football fans — happily or begrudgingly — regard him as the greatest quarterback of all time. He’s certainly accomplished quite a bit.

With that being established, beating the Texans last year may have required his single greatest game. Ever.

Hyperbole? Not really. Brady was unreal vs. the Texans last year, going 25-for-35 (71.4 percent) for 378 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions. The then-40-year-old never showed a hint of fatigue on an 84-degree day, and he managed all of that production despite getting sacked five times and hit eight total times by a hungry Houston defense.

That was an afternoon where Patriots running backs were nearly nonexistent. The Patriots ran for just 53 yards on 19 carries for a 2.8-yard average. Their longest run of the day went for eight yards. Six rushes went for zero or negative yards.

Simply put, Brady had to essentially be perfect. And he was. Can he do it again, if needed? It’s surely possible. But relying on your 41-year-old quarterback to put forth that type of performance is generally not the best recipe for success.

A Week 1 Loss Would Not Be Out Of Character For The Patriots

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Bill Belichick walks off the field after the Chiefs defeated the Patriots 42-27. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

This one has much less to do with the Texans as much as it has to do with the Patriots themselves. And though it’s somewhat surprising for a team as successful as the Patriots, starting off the season with a victory is not often a sure thing.

And we don’t have to go back to the infamous Lawyer Milloy game to make that point, either. Look at the last four years:

2014**: Loss, @ Miami, 33-20
2015: Win, vs. Pittsburgh, 28-21
2016**: Win, @ Arizona, 23-21
2017*: Loss, vs. Kansas City, 42-27

* made Super Bowl
** won Super Bowl

Even one of the wins wasn’t particularly convincing, as the Cardinals only lost in 2016 due to a missed 47-yard field goal at the end of regulation.

Clearly, a Week 1 loss would be nothing new for New England. And last year, quite obviously, whatever the overall defensive game plan was for the Patriots, it needed quite a bit of tinkering. This year, Brian Flores is running the defense (albeit in an unofficial capacity), and he’ll want to avoid such a major hiccup early in the year. On the other side of the ball, there will likely be some growing pains as the Patriots incorporate Trent Brown at left tackle and reacclimate Marcus Cannon at right tackle. (Nate Solder’s departure was a big one, but it was Solder who gave up the strip-sack-turned-TD last year.)

Put it all together, and it’s difficult to deny that the Patriots face a rather stiff challenge in their season opener. Can they win? Of course. Should they win? Absolutely. But with Vegas favoring New England by six or seven points, it’s at least worth recognizing that this year’s Texans-Patriots meeting should be looked upon as much more of an even matchup than those in past years might have been.

That’s as long as Bill O’Brien books the right hotel, though.