Despite what the Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy might write, the Texans do have a chance this weekend against the Patriots. And that chance revolves around one player (when Houston has the ball, anyway): running back Arian Foster.
This is no great secret but neither was the Packers' need to stop Adrian Peterson in last Saturday's wild-card get-together after he treaded them for 409 yards in two previous games during the regular season.
And like Peterson, if Foster gets going, it opens things in the passing game. And unlike the Vikings, the Texans have legit playmakers at quarterback and wide receiver.
Given coach Bill Belichick's attention to detail and "no opponent can be overlooked" mentality, it's not surprising that his players aren't taking Houston lightly.
"You can't take a situation and overlook it, and the situation for us is the Houston Texans," nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. "You can't overlook this team, We have to play good football. If we play well, we'll be OK, but if we don't we'll be in trouble."
And that's the rub. Again, nothing earth-shattering, just the realization of what it will take to win and that's it's a lot easier said than done.
"The things he can do with the ball in his hands in the passing game and running it," Wilfork said regarding Foster. "He's a great blocker when they ask him to block. He's a special player, we understand that. We know it starts with their running game. You can't x-out the receivers, Andre Johnson, you can't x-out [tight end] Owen Daniels, can't x-out the quarterback, can't x-out their offensive line. They're well put together. Last time they played us, they didn't play us well, so I'm pretty sure they're going to come out fired up and ready to play this week."
While it's natural to be concerned about Foster's abilities, ESPN analyst Damien Woody, who also played for the Patriots, thinks Wilfork is the key to stopping the Texans' running game.
“With the Patriots defense and Wilfork in particular, it’s about clogging up the gaps," Woody said via the Boston Herald. "If you’re able to clog up the gaps and push the line of scrimmage back, there’s nowhere for Arian Foster to cut, and that’s what they did so well last time -- they got penetration. You have a guy like Vince, he’s able to move those guys back because of his size, his strength, his angle and all those other things. It’s just not a good matchup for a team like the Texans. If they want to win, they’ve got to get Arian Foster running.”
Texans coach Gary Kubiak admitted on Monday that Wilfork won't be easy to contain.
"The thing about him (is) he’s so athletic," the coach said. "We like to cut (block), we like to do those things up front offensively. And he jumped over us a couple of times. They’re built right down the middle with the young linebacker (Brandon Spikes) and (Wilfork). They’re built very well right there. Against us they squeeze the ball really good off the edges with their outside players and let him do his work.”
Tom Brady vs. Matt Schaub might be the matchup the media talks about most in the run up to this game, but the real battle will be between Wilfork and Foster.