The Patriots have a chance to get back to .500 this week. New England will be in Houston going against an anemic Texans team. If the Patriots want to increase their playoff hopes, they will need a win over the Texans. New England's rushing attack will be a massive component of this game.
Houston's head is rushing
It is no secret the Texans have had an abysmal year. They have clearly lost the DeAndre Hopkins trade. Head coach Bill O'Brien was fired after a winless September. J.J. Watt is no longer the dominant force a defense has to plan around.
If not for Deshaun Watson, this team would unwatchable. An even the talented quarterback has not been able to completely wash away that claim. New England has a chance to expose the worst part of this Houston team Sunday. The Texans do an awful job at handling opponents' rushing onset.
Ground and pounded
The Texans' run defense has been atrocious this season. They have allowed at least 100 yards on the ground in 7 of their 9 games. And one of those times was when the Packers rushed for 96 yards.
Kansas City Chiefs; 166 rushing yards
Baltimore Ravens; 230 rushing yards
Pittsburgh Steelers; 169 rushing yards
Minnesota Vikings; 162 rushing yards
Tennessee Titans; 263 rushing yards
Jacksonville Jaguars; 115 rushing yards
Cleveland Browns; 231 rushing yards
Not surprisingly, the Texans rank dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per contest. Houston's average of 167.4 yards allowed on the ground is 10 yards higher than the 31st ranked Dallas Cowboys.
Patriot backs, get ready to rush
At this point, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels grasp how to get the most out of this offense. Damien Harris has really come into his own recently, with 100 + yard games in 2 out of the last 3 contests. He is an aggressive runner that rarely goes down on the first hit. Expect a big game from Harris on Sunday.
Sony Michel is also off of injured reserve and could give New England even more depth at the running back position if he can go. Rex Burkhead has been a productive Red Zone weapon this year as well. Not to mention, James White is always a threat to pop off.
With Cam Newton taking the snaps, the Texans cannot like their chances to stop the Patriots' ground attack. New England will try to take Houston out of the game early by breaking their spirit with hard, physical runs. They want to wear them down in the trenches all afternoon.
The one thing New England needs to make sure does not happen is Houston's offense getting off to a hot start. This Patriots offense wants to shorten the game, commit to the run for the entire 60 minutes, and finish their drives with 6. If Watson puts up pinball numbers early on, that will derail New England's game plan.
This is a must-win game for the Patriots. A victory would go a long way in boosting them into a wild card spot. A loss to this Texans team, who has nothing to play for, would be back-breaking. Expect New England to play a smart, clean game and grind Houston down over 60 minutes.
Story by Chad Jones
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones