CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan Monday morning and talked about Monday night’s Patriots-Texans game, the injury to Julian Edelman and more news from around the NFL.
Some in Houston are calling this game the biggest in the history of Texans franchise. Esiason said putting the game on a pedestal could give the Texans a needed edge.
"I’d say [it's] an advantage, I would imagine. Simply because maybe it gives a little bit more focus," Esiason said. "They have room to play with here. They can lose this game and it wouldn’t kill their season. … Tonight, they’re going to have to be great on the run game. The best way to play defense against Tom Brady and his offense is to control the football. That’s the kind of team the Texans are. But what really concerns me about them is their defense. Their defense has been kind of ripped up pretty good the last couple of weeks. A lot of that was due to injury, and they’re going to get some guys back it looks like tonight.
"Their team is a very good football team. I know they’re looking at this as a major measuring stick for them because, quite frankly, if they can come away with this victory, I think in the back of their minds they feel like they can probably beat anybody and get all the way to the Super Bowl."
Esiason noted how important the running game will be for the Texans -- and how important it will be for the New England defensive line to stand tall.
"They’re going to fall back on Arian Foster, and rightfully so," Esiason said. "He’s one of the best running backs in football. That’s what they do. That’s Gary Kubiak’s background from Denver. It will be a tremendous fight for Vince Wilfork, the defensive line of the New England Patriots are going to have to come up with stop after stop after stop because they will not stop running the football. This is a running game where the offensive linemen like to dive at the knees of the defensive linemen of the opposing team. So, there is going to be a lot of nastiness on that line of scrimmage tonight. And it’s going to be pretty intense, I would imagine."
Esiason said the key to the game could be turnovers, which neither team allows often. He said it’s important for the Texans to keep Brady off the field.
"Neither one of these teams turns the ball over," Esiason said. "So, obviously if you get a turnover or something, especially in the negative part of the field for one of these offenses, that’s going to be a huge thing if in fact that happens. But if not, first and foremost, how well is Arian Foster running and is he gaining big chunks of yards. … Is everything kind of keeping Tom Brady and his offense off the field. If that’s happening, then it could be a long night for the Patriots. If that’s not happening, then it could be a long night for the Houston defense. I do like New England to win the game tonight. I think it’s going to be high scoring. I think Tom Brady will have the opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter."
Esiason said Texans defensive end J.J. Watt will be a problem for the Patriots, and that New England needs to be aware of his presence at all times.
"J.J. Watt is a pain in the neck," Esiason said. "It’s going to be a war on the offensive line for the New England Patriots. And they know it. … Any time you have a great, active defensive tackle who can move all around that offensive line and create mismatches for you, you have to be aware where he is at all times. You have got to be sure you have enough guys going his way. You’ve got to make sure that it’s not usually one-on-one because he’s better than most offensive guards and tackles. They’re very good up front, there is no question about that. This is going to be a late-fourth-quarter game. I believe the quarterback that has the ball in his hands late in this game is going to win it."
The injury that will keep Julian Edelman sidelined could be a major stumbling block for the Patriots.
"It’s going to be interesting to see how they replace that," Esiason said. "Because Edelman has done so many little, quality things for them out of the backfield, on special teams, catching balls from the slot and things of that nature. Donte' Stallworth, I don’t know if he’ll play tonight or not, but he is not Julian Edelman. Or certainly not what Julian Edelman has become to be in this offense. To me, that is a major, major loss for them and we’ll see how they react to that.”
Matt Schaub is undefeated on the road this season and heads into Foxboro looking to lead the Texans to 12-1. Esiason said he doesn’t think Schaub is an elite quarterback.
"No, not yet," Esiason said. "I think he probably is a top-12 quarterback, which would put him in the upper 50 percent of the league, obviously. … He’s kind of an under-the-radar guy. He’s more of a play-action passing guy. He’s not a guy that you’re going to have drop back 45 times out of the shotgun and say, ‘Go win the game for me.’ … He’s never played in a playoff game. These are opportunities for him now to show that he belongs and try to win a game on the road. I think it will be difficult for him tonight."
Following are more highlights from the interview.
On Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' tendency to blitz: "He can’t help himself. He’s going to blitz somewhere tonight. I always think the best thing to do with Tom Brady is not blitz him. I always think it’s better to sit back and just kind of play the rope-a-dope with Brady like [Bill] Belichick plays on [Peyton] Manning or Belichick plays on any other great quarterback and tries not to force the issue. And to see whether the quarterback in question is going to make a mistake. Now, obviously it’s a pick your poison with Tom. He can rip you when you’re blitzing. He can also be patient just to keep taking underneath stuff until you decide that you’re going to blitz and then he’ll find somebody open."
On the Ravens, who suffered a 31-28 overtime loss to the Redskins on Sunday: "Boy, they caught a heck of a break yesterday with Pittsburgh not showing up. Who saw that coming? And, of course, Dallas beating Cincinnati. I think by process of elimination, they’re going to make the playoffs, but they’re going to be a one-and-done team. This defense is not what it used to be. … They have a quarterback who is frustratingly inconsistent. … Joe Flacco, even though he had his opportunity last year, he’s waiting for that big contract right now. If you’re Baltimore, there’s no way in the world you give him an extension to the tune of $15 million a year."
On the Jets after Sunday’s 17-10 win over the Jaguars: "I know it wasn’t pretty offensively. We had virtually no passing game. It looks like they lost their second-round pick, Stephen Hill, yesterday. I didn’t see anything from Mark Sanchez that made me feel any better about his performance than I felt on Friday. It’s a major work in progress."
On the death of Cowboys linebacker Jerry Brown and the arrest of his teammate, Josh Brent, on charges of intoxication manslaughter: "It is about personal responsibility, as far as I’m concerned. Personal responsibility has been lost somewhere along the line here. It is a microcosm of society in my estimation. … These things are certainly going to garner a lot of attention. … But he knows better, Josh Brent. He obviously had a DUI back in college when he was in Illinois. He’s going to have a long time to think about this."
On the AFC wild card race: "I still think it’s going to be Pittsburgh. It’s a team with nine lives. … Yesterday was just a horrific loss for them. I honestly believe that Ben Roethlisberger will somehow get his team to the playoffs. So, it will be Indianapolis and Pittsburgh."