Several hours before kickoff, media reports indicated that rookie RB Sony Michel (knee) would be among the seven inactive Patriots for the regular season opener. This news wasn't entirely surprising, even though Michel returned to practice Aug. 27 after undergoing a medical procedure earlier that month.
Michel came to New England with a history of injuries, and the Patriots are likely taking a cautious approach with him as he works his way back from this latest ailment. Fortunately for the Patriots, they have sufficient support in the backfield in the form of co-captain James White, Rex Burkhead, and Jeremy Hill, all of whom are active today.
The other high-profile name on the inactive list is Jacob Hollister (hamstring). The second-year tight end was enjoying a strong summer in training camp and the early preseason before suffering a hamstring injury that has limited him in practices ever since. His absence deprives QB Tom Brady of a valuable pass-catching option at a time when the Patriots could use as many as possible, given their depth issues at wide receiver.
Second-year defensive end Derek Rivers had been hoping to make his regular season debut for the Patriots after sitting out all of last season with a knee injury. Rivers wasn't on the injury report, so, it seems he might be the victim of a numbers game at the defensive line roster.
There were no other startling names to appear on New England's inactive sheet today. Like Rivers, the remaining four men are technically healthy scratches (not listed on the injury report) but are not yet at a point where they are being relied upon in the game plan: Offensive lineman Brian Schwenke spent the summer with New England, didn't survive the initial cut-down, but was later brought back to be part of the 53-man roster. Wide receiver Chad Hansen was claimed off waivers from the New York Jets only a week ago and is likely not sufficiently up to speed on the playbook. Finally, the Patriots likely feel they have enough depth at defensive back to sit rookie corners Keion Crossen and J.C. Jackson today.
It didn't appear that the Patriots had any game-time decisions to make with their inactive list, as none of the seven listed players or any of the active 46 were put through any on-field testing during pre-game warmups. Perhaps the best news to take away from this first Patriots injury report of 2018 is who was NOT on it: right tackle Marcus Cannon. He had been listed as questionable for this game because of a calf injury that has limited him since the beginning of August. He should get the start at his normal spot on the offensive line today.
Meanwhile, Houston's most notable deactivation is wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring). Like Michel, he, too, was the subject of early-morning reports that he'd be unable to go because of his injury. Texans QB Deshaun Watson will now be without one of his best playmakers, which perhaps puts more of a target of No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins.