The Patriots just wrapped up the preseason and the 53-man roster won't likely be settled for a few more days but the NFL season will kick off for real on Sept. 9 so it's time to look forward.
New England has an interesting opener at Gillette Stadium as the Houston Texans will visit with their promising young quarterback, Deshaun Watson, healthy after missing most of his rookie year with a torn ACL. But he isn't the only Houston star making his return.
The Texans also boast a tough defense, led by J.J. Watt, and he will be looking to return to his All-Pro form against a Patriots offense that could be in transition mode as it learns to deal with its lack of receivers.
So this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is simple and straightforward when it comes to looking ahead to the opener: What aspect of the Texans has you most concerned about the opener?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
The Patriots will almost certainly suffer through some adjustment periods on offense with Julian Edelman out of the lineup and lots of question marks at receiver. Couple that with a tough Texans defense, which should have J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus back on the field together and that could make for a long day at the office.
Houston has often done things defensively that have given the Patriots problems in the past, and that was when the offense was operating at near full strength. The personnel issues already mentioned could lead Tom Brady to hold the ball longer than normal as he searches for open receivers. That could lead to some extra pressure from the Texans front seven, which is the best way to contain Brady.
Also, Houston has some versatile linebackers, led by Benardrick McKinney, who might be able to take away the short throws to running backs that Brady likes. The Texans defense will be tough to deal with.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Things don't look great on offense with the issues Tom Brady is going to have at receiver but I still have more concerns on the other side of the ball. The Texans defense has talent but honestly I feel it's a bit overrated. Given what I saw from Deshaun Watson last September, I don't feel the same could be said of the Texans offense.
Watson is healthy and he's had another year to watch and learn the pro game. In just his second-ever start last fall he riddled the Patriots secondary and he could do the same thing with his ability to move around the pocket and make plays with his legs and his arm. DeAndre Hopkins is one of the most productive receivers in the league and the Texans have a solid one-two punch at running back with Lamar Miller and D'Onta Freeman.
But it really comes down to Watson, who's mobility could force the Patriots to use a lot of zone coverages where Stephon Gilmore tends to struggle. My faith is with Brady, not the defense.