Thursday Night Football
HOUSTON TEXANS (2-0) vs NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-0)
Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien likely isn’t going to sob over the predicaments of former boss in New England Bill Belichick ahead of their matchup for Thursday Night Football game (Enter Contests) at Foxborough. The Patriots are expected to start third-round rookie Jacoby Brissett in spite of Tom Brady’s suspension and Jimmy Garoppolo’s shoulder injury. Brissett completed 6-of-9 passes for 92 yards in Sunday’s 31-24 victory over Miami, after Garoppolo went down.
All-star tight-end Rob Gronkowski has yet to make his season debut. He’s still bothered by a hamstring injury, but could be making his return to the lineup Thursday. Acquired from Chicago in March, Martellus Bennett has done a good job in place of Gronkowski. The nine-year veteran has played on all but two offensive snaps during the season’s initial two games. He reeled in a 20-yard touchdown on Sunday against Miami. Bruising running back LeGarrette Blount collected 193 yards and two touchdowns this season. He’ll look to stay healthy, especially against the team that landed him on the injured reserve last season.
After enduring the round and round of their own quarterback carousel last year, the Texans have welcomed the stability afforded by their expensive offseason acquisition Brock Osweiler. Signed to a four-year, $72 million contract, Osweiler was able build good chemistry with Pro Bowl selection DeAndre Hopkins and first-round rookie Will Fuller. While Hopkins leads the team with 12 receptions and two touchdowns, Fuller became the third wideout to start his NFL career with two straight 100-yard receiving games.
Running back Lamar Miller provides O’Brien with a constant presence in the backfield, as the offseason acquisition’s 53 carries are second only to Pittsburgh’s DeAngelo Williams (58) for most in the league. Defense has been the name of the game for Houston, which surrendered just 26 points (NFL third-best), 274.5 yards allowed (third-best) and 178.5 passing yards (fourth-best). Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt earned 1.5 sacks in a 19-12 triumph over Kansas City last Sunday, while linebacker Whitney Mercilus has had two of them this season and 17 in his last 14 games overall.