Winners of two in a row, the New England Patriots travel to NRG Stadium to play the slumping Houston Texans. The Patriots (4-5) are fresh off a stunning upset victory over the Baltimore Ravens on “Sunday Night Football,” while the Texans (2-7) have dropped three of their past four games.
Both of Houston’s wins this season came against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8). The Texans are just 1-4 at home.
The Patriots have had their share of woes on the road in 2020. They have gone 1-3 in away contests—with their lone victory coming against the winless New York Jets.
Before the Patriots battle the Texans, let’s make four bold predictions for the Week 11 matchup.
1. Damien Harris rushes for 100+ yards, scores TD
After producing a career-high 121 rushing yards against the Ravens’ stout run defense last week, Damien Harris should feat against the Texans on Sunday. Harris ranks fifth in the NFL in yards per carry (5.5).
Damien Harris now has three 100-yard rushing games this season (in his 1st 6 career starts).
The only players with more 100-yard games are Derrick Henry (5), Dalvin Cook (4) and Ronald Jones (4). pic.twitter.com/Z420hGfA0t
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 16, 2020
Teams are attacking the Texans’ defense via the run this season. Houston has faced a league-most 251 carries and allowed an NFL-high 1,389 rushing yards. The Texans rank last in rush Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). This is great news for Harris, who holds the fifth-best DVOA rating among qualified running backs.
Sony Michel’s potential return from injured reserve could cap Harris’ ceiling in Week 11, but the latter should still see plenty of carries. The Patriots are committed to running the ball—as evidenced by their NFL-most 301 rushing attempts—and will be sure to feed Harris out of the backfield.
Harris is due to score a touchdown, which would be the second of his career, in what will be his second consecutive 100-yard rushing performance.
2. Rex Burkhead catches another touchdown
Rex Burkhead caught two touchdowns in the Patriots’ Week 10 victory. He has mustered six total touchdowns on the season—three rushing and three receiving.
Jakobi Meyers throws a dime to Rex Burkhead for a 24-yard TD. #Patriots pulling out the trickery tonight.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) November 16, 2020
Burkhead’s ascension into the offense comes, not coincidentally, as James White’s usage has decreased. Burkhead corralled four-of-six targets for 35 yards last week, adding 31 yards on six carries. White, meanwhile, did not receive a single carry and caught his two targets for a mere eight yards. Perhaps White is dealing with an injury. Either way, it is clear Burkhead is the team’s go-to pass-catching halfback—especially since Harris has collected just two receptions all season.
The Patriots don’t have many reliable pass catchers. Julian Edelman remains on injured reserve. Second-year wide receiver Jakobi Meyers is the only player to succeed consistently in recent weeks. He faces a challenging one-on-one matchup in Week 11, however. He will likely be guarded by Texans cornerback Bradley Roby, who has shined in what has been an underwhelming unit.
With Meyers facing a difficult matchup, Burkhead should get more looks in the receiving department. Burkhead will take advantage of the added opportunities allotted to him and haul in another receiving score.
3. Patriots sack Deshaun Watson three times
The Patriots have yet to manage more than two sacks in a game in 2020. That ends on Sunday when they take down Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson three times.
For as good as Watson has been for most of his career, one knock on him is his proclivity to hang onto the ball too long in the pocket. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will make an effort for his defense to exploit this weakness in Watson’s game.
In what figures to be a plus matchup for the Patriots’ defense, look for them to muster three sacks, a season high for the unit.
4. Patriots win, cover 2.5-point spread
After being 6.5-point underdogs in Week 10, the Patriots enter Week 11 as 2.5-point favorites over Houston. The line is a reflection of the Patriots’ recent performance and the Texans’ season-long struggles.
In the ultracompetitive AFC, the Patriots cannot afford to lose to the Texans if they hope to reach the postseason for the 12th consecutive year.
Updated AFC standings: pic.twitter.com/TuY2fFeAzL
— Christopher Price (@cpriceglobe) November 16, 2020
The Patriots will lean on quarterback Cam Newton once again. While he may not be thriving as a passer, his success in the running game is unprecedented.
Cam Newton is the first QB in the Super Bowl era with 9 rush TD in his first 8 games of a season
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 16, 2020
The dual-threat Newton will leave the Texans’ porous defense in the dust on Sunday. The Patriots win and easily cover the spread, reaching the .500 mark in the process.