— NFL (@NFL) November 22, 2020
The 45-yard field goal from Nick Folk is good — his 16th straight made FG attempt — and it’s 10-7 with 8:32 left in the first half. There was more razzle-dazzle on that drive for New England, who dipped into the playbook for a 20-yard pickup on a double pass play that saw it go from Rex Burkhead to Newton to Jakobi Meyers. Newton is 6-11 for 85 yards, Harris has 8 carries for 39 yards and James White has 2 catches for 43 yards.
Adrian Phillips has played well all year, and has been in the center of things over the first quarter-plus today. He was in the middle of a minor scrap in the early going, and just now, almost came away with that interception. Good start for the veteran, who is looking more and more like a natural fit in the New England system. The Pats will get the ball at their own 29-yard line -- the game is tied at seven with 13:45 to go in the half.
Not a great sequence there for the Patriots, who punted the ball away after an inefficient series that included a pair of negative runs and a near decleating of Cam Newton. The offense is going to hear it on the sideline after that. It’s tied at seven with 1:20 to go in the first quarter. Newton is 4-7 for 56 yards, while Harris has 7 carries for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Deshaun Watson has been making some really sharp throws here in the early going, and we saw a couple of them on that successful drive for Houston. A 44-yarder from Watson to Brandin Cooks was a dart that set the Texans up nicely. That was soon followed by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Cobb. Watson is always a handful to defend, but he appears to be particularly on point when it comes to the passing game here in the early going. It’s tied at seven with 3:36 to go in the first quarter.
The Patriots took a 7-0 lead on a 9-yard run from Damien Harris with 6:52 left in the first quarter, a steady, efficient drive for New England that culminated in the first touchdown of the day. The Texans are stacking the box up front here in the early going, a pick-your-poison approach that has allowed the Patriots to take to the air with some success. A 34-yard pickup on a screen pass to James White got the offense moving. (It was the second-longest pass play of the season for New England.) That was followed by a 17-yard pass play to Damiere Byrd to keep the chains moving. Harris did end the drive with five carries for 25 yards, but however they were able to do it, it was a really good opening drive for the Patriots’ offense to give them an early lead.
Good start for the Patriots, who held the Texans’ offense to their side of the field and forced a punt. Look for New England to run the ball early and often this afternoon against a hapless Houston run defense. It’s scoreless with 12:54 left in the first quarter.
The combined age of Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel is 141 years old -- the CBS broadcast just noted it’s the oldest coaching matchup in NFL history.
Patriots win the toss and defer. TIME FOR THE FOOSBALL!
When it comes to predictions, let’s start here: I love the way New England has played for the last game-plus, and believe the Pats can build on that going forward. At the same time, there’s no margin for error the rest of the way, and that includes this afternoon’s game in Houston against the Texans. As bad as things have been for them the last couple of months, Houston is still a dangerous team with a lot of talent. But New England is in a good spot to get its third straight win this afternoon. I think Damien “The Hammer” Harris continues to run the ball well, the Patriots play turnover-free football, and end up with a 27-17 win over the Texans this afternoon.
Patriots are 2.5-point favorites in this one, and I like them to win straight-up and cover the spread. A few good notes from the gang at Odds Shark:
•Houston is 2-8 straight up and against the spread in its last 10 games.
•New England is 8-3 against the spread in its last 11 contests against Houston.
•New England is 8-1 straight up in their last 9 games against Houston.
We’re going to include the pregame rooting guide for Patriots’ fans before the start of the action every week. This week, as New England aims to get back to .500 and become a player in the postseason chase, the choices for New Englanders are pretty cut and dried in these five games that figure to have the biggest impact on the AFC playoff picture:
•Titans (6-3) at Ravens (6-3): Tough one for New England fans. Maybe a tie? The Patriots now hold the tiebreaker on Baltimore, so it’s probably best to root on Tennessee.
•Eagles (3-5-1) at Browns (6-3): Patriots fans are going to be pulling for Philadelphia, as a Cleveland loss would draw them closer to New England.
•Dolphins (6-3) at Broncos (3-6): If Denver beats Miami and the Patriots get past the Texans, New England would be only a game behind Miami.
•Packers (7-2) at Colts (6-3): if the Patriots take care of business, a Green Bay win over Indy would get New England closer to the Colts in the playoff chase.
•Chiefs (8-1) at Raiders (6-3): Kansas City could help out the Patriots with a win over Las Vegas.
Reports indicate they are opening the roof at NRG Stadium today in Houston, which means it’s supposed to be nice in Houston. According to our pals at weather.com, we’ll see highs in the 80s today with almost no threat of rain. Good day to stay hydrated.
Courtesy of the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s a look at four numbers to watch today:
•Damien Harris enters Week 11 looking for his first stretch of consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. The last Patriots running back to put together consecutive 100-yard rushing games in the regular season was LeGarrette Blount with 123 yards rushing vs. Miami (9/18/16) and 105 vs. Houston (9/22/16).
•With one more rushing touchdown this season, Cam Newton will become the 11th Patriot to rush for double-digit TDs in a single season and first since RB LeGarrette Blount set a franchise record with 18 rushing TDs in 2016.
•With his next interception, Devin McCourty (28) will tie Ron Hall, Roland James and Fred Marion for third all-time in Patriots history with 29 career interceptions.
•RB Rex Burkhead has six total touchdowns in 2020 (three rushing touchdowns & three receiving touchdowns), second to the career-high eight touchdowns (five rushing and three receiving) he had in 2017 with the Patriots. He needs one more receiving touchdown to set a single-season career-high with four.
The Patriots have announced their inactives for today — here’s the list, and here’s what it all means:
First, the good news — after an extended stretch on the sidelines because of a bad knee, cornerback Stephon Gilmore is good to go.
Now, for those who will be out for today’s game against Houston.
•Sony Michel was activated, but is still out for this afternoon’s game. Damien Harris remains the lead back for New England. We wrote (semi-jokingly) last week that Michel could very well have been Wally Pipped but while the Patriots shuffle their backs on a regular basis, it appears they are remaining with the hot hand in Harris, at least right now.
•Undersized running back J.J. Taylor is an odd case. The UDFA was able to provide a nice jolt for the offense at times earlier in the season, but hasn’t been able to get off the bench the last few weeks. He’s another healthy scratch.
•Defensive back Myles Bryant has been a healthy scratch for a large chunk of the season, and will be again for today’s game.
•Defensive lineman Adam Butler’s shoulder had him limited all week, and was questionable heading into today’s game. No surprise he is on the shelf. Look for New England to do more shuffling up front to replace Butler, who has started to flash more as a three-down player after starting his NFL career as more of a pass-rush presence.
•Wide receiver Isaiah Ford, who was an in season pickup for the Patriots, wasn’t on the injury report all week, which means he’s another healthy scratch. Two thoughts here: one, this could mean New England feels some optimism about the health of N’Keal Harry. And two, he could still be getting up to speed in the Patriots’ offense.
•Not that there was much of a doubt before, but another healthy scratch for Brian Hoyer means he’s solidly entrenched as the third quarterback on the depth chart behind Cam Newton and youngster Jarrett Stidham.
Today, J.C. Jackson has an opportunity to intercept a pass in a sixth consecutive game. Jackson, who leads the NFL with six interceptions, is the first player with an interception in five straight games since a five-game streak by Reggie Nelson in 2015. Since the 1970 merger, the NFL’s longest streak is six games (seven times, most recently Brian Russell in 2003.
Signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Jackson is on pace to become the first NFL player with double-digit interceptions since the Chargers’ Antonio Cromartie had 10 in 2007. With 14 interceptions in his first three NFL seasons, Jackson is in rare company. Since the merger in 1970, only three undrafted players have had more interceptions over their first three NFL seasons.
We’re back to football again today as the Patriots get set to square off against the Texans, with kickoff at 1 p.m. New England (4-5) will be trying for its’ first three-game win streak of the season, while Houston (2-7) is just trying to finish the season with a modicum of dignity. We’ll have all the news you’ll need here, all afternoon long, with the latest from Houston, as well as betting news, a check on some games that might impact the Patriots’ playoff chances, and injury analysis shortly after 11:30. But first, we’ll start things -- as usual -- with the pregame reading list.
Nicole Yang: Jakobi Meyers wanted to pursue baseball. His mother and high school football coach changed his mind
Ben Volin: Former Patriots character coach Jack Easterby finds life lonelier at the top with Houston Texans
Jim McBride: Patriots activating running back Sony Michel off injured reserve
Ben Volin: A weird 2020 NFL season is about to get weirder with stricter COVID-19 protocols
Jim McBride and Andrew Mahoney: Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore says he’s preparing as though he’ll play Sunday
Chad Finn: The Patriots should be able to keep it rolling against the Texans
Trevor Hass: What to know about the Texans, whose season hasn’t gone as planned
Jim McBride: Patriots quarterback Cam Newton still shaking off the rust
Nicole Yang: What’s life like for Patrick Chung without football? A new business, a new baby, and catching up with his Patriots friends
Globe Staff NFL Picks for the week
Christopher Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.