Former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, now a host on Houston Sports Radio 610, joined the Dennis & Callahan show on Wednesday morning to preview Sunday's AFC playoff game between the Texans and Patriots.
The Texans were routed by the Pats, 42-14, on Dec. 10, and are big underdogs for the rematch.
"The only chance they really have, quite honestly, is to do what they do at the utmost perfect level. … A lot of things have to go to plan for the Texans, particularly early in the game," Johnson said. "Essentially, their philosophy is the same week in and week out. That is, establish the running game, complement it with the play-action pass, chew up the clock -- they love those 10-, 15-play drives -- play keep-away from the other team's offense, and that's how they do it. That only works if your defense is getting three-and-outs. We know what happened last time -- the Patriots exploded on them. That's the only chance, quite honestly, that the Texans have if they're going to win this game."
Quarterback Matt Schaub struggled against the Patriots, and two of his three regular-season games after that matchup were below average as Houston limped into the playoffs.
"There's something about playing the Patriots that absolutely exposes teams to every single flaw," said Johnson, who predicts a Patriots-Broncos AFC championship game. "I think Matt was never the same. Just mentally, he seems like he's forcing balls, he's so conservative, he's so afraid of making mistakes, and it shows."
All that said, Johnson said he expects the Texans will be motivated by the result of the last meeting.
"They're tiring of hearing how bad they got beat up," he said. "So, I think it's something that will serve them well."
Ultimately, Johnson said New England's willingness to mix things up while Houston's relies on the same game plan puts the Texans at a big disadvantage.
"[The Texans] have to change what they do," Johnson said. "I played on a team there in New England where I had a coach -- it was crazy. I had never seen anything like it. We would go from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Before we played my last game ever as a pro in New England, we go up in the Super Bowl in Jacksonville [in 2005] against the Eagles and we've been playing 3-4 all season long. Hey, guess what? We're going totally something different, we're going to throw a 4-3 at them and beat them with that. And that's what we did.
"They don't do that here. They don't change what they do. I just think that makes it so much easier for the Patriots, because they pretty much know for most of the time they're going to line up and they're going to play man to man. Well, if the Patriots know going in that's what they're going to to -- it's like all they're doing all week this week is running man views. That's all they're going to do. You know how they're going to line up because they haven't changed all season. So, I don't see this game being any different."
Touching on the controversy in Washington, where coach Mike Shanahan played ailing quarterback Robert Griffin III on Sunday, leading to the QB suffering more severe ligament damage, Johnson said Shanahan's behavior proves that the coaches in this league have too much power.
"We all think our coaches actually care about our well-being," Johnson said. "Shanahan can say all day, 'I didn't want to put him in jeopardy.' Are you kidding me? Really? Are you kidding me? You see that he can't do what he needs to do against a very physical team. I don't understand why you would risk the future of your franchise by keeping him out there. It's just an ego-driven thing. Honestly, it pisses me off."