This Patriots vs. Texans matchup doesn't have the same prominence as it's had in years past, but there is still plenty on the line during Sunday's head-to-head in Houston, especially for Bill Belichick's club. Entering this game at 4-5, New England is looking to get back to .500 for the first time since Week 4 and inch that much closer to making a playoff push. They are coming into this game hot off the heels of an upset win over the Baltimore Ravens at a rainy Gillette Stadium on Sunday Night Football.
As for the Texans, it's been a lost year for Deshaun Watson. The club kicked former Bill Belichick disciple Bill O'Brien to the curb and are 2-7 heading into this matchup. While the Belichick-O'Brien coaching connection has been cut out of this contest, former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennell is serving as the Texans interim head coach. Last time out, Houston couldn't get the edge over Cleveland, falling just short and losing to the Browns 10-7.
Andrew Catalon, James Lofton, and AJ Ross will be on the call as New England tries to remain in the hunt for the postseason and Texans try to attain their third win of the year.
How to watch
New England is trying to carry the momentum of back-to-back wins to propel themselves over the Texans in this matchup. Over that two-game winning streak (longest of the season), Cam Newton has made a noticeable improvement as a passer, completing nearly 77% of his throws while committing zero turnovers. He still has yet to really uncork his arm, but the veteran is doing just enough through the air to keep New England's drives alive while also not shooting themselves in the foot with a turnover. As Newton steers the ship, the offense has recently been carried by a youth movement headlined by receiver Jakobi Meyers and running back Damien Harris. Since jumping up to a starter, Meyers has built up quite the connection with Newton, catching 23 passes for 286 yards over three games. He also flashed his arm, completing a 24-yard pass to Rex Burkhead in the win over Baltimore last week. With injuries derailing Julian Edelman and N'Keal Harry's involvement in the offense, this breakout by Meyers couldn't have come at a better time for Josh McDaniels.
While Meyers is helping the passing game move, the Patriots have embraced a running identity, which is where Harris and Newton have dominated. Harris logged his third 100-yard outing last week against Baltimore, totaling a career-high 121 rushing yards on 5.5 yards per carry. Newton has primarily been a rushing threat in the red zone, scoring nine touchdowns entering Week 11. This will be a key focus to Sunday's game with Houston as the Texans have the worst run defense in the entire NFL.
As for Deshaun Watson, the Texans quarterback has flashed his brilliance a number of times, but the talent just isn't around him for Houston to make a significant impact. Their two wins on the season came against the Jaguars and are 0-6 against every other opponent this year. When you take Jacksonville, arguably the worst or second-worst team in the NFL, out of the equation, the Texans defense is allowing 33.8 points per game. The defense has also struggled at creating momentum plays for Watson and the offense, having just five takeaways this season, which is the fewest in the NFL.
The Patriots should come away with this game thanks to Houston's weaknesses playing right into New Engalnd's strengths. Cam Newton and Damien Harris should continue to have tremendous success on the ground against a horrid Texans run defense that just allowed the Browns to total 231 yards on the ground on 5.6 yards per carry in Week 10. That ground game will help New England control time of possession and create opportunities for Newton to throw the ball out of play-action or an RPO. As for what the rest of our CBS Sports experts think, click here.
Score: New England 23, Houston 20