Some teams dread a ride on the quarterback carousel and squirm for the duration of their trip. For the Patriots (2-0), it barely elicits a yawn from coach Bill Belichick and soon-to-be-coach Josh McDaniels. New England is rolling into this matchup with the Texans (2-0) and will start 2016 fourth-round pick Jacoby Brissett, a 23-year-old native of West Palm Beach, Fla., in place of Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder).
Here's what we'll be watching for on Thursday night (live stream tonight's Texans-Patriots game on Twitter):
1. More Will Fuller:Scouts were worried about this pick because of Fuller's supposedly suspect hands. While he may not have the extraordinary catch rate of Doug Baldwin or Keenan Allen, Fuller is already pulling his weight and then some in Bill O'Brien's stretched out Texans offense. Football Outsiders has Fuller as one of the top 16 wideouts in football already this year, ranked by Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement. This means that, when the ball is in his hands, Fuller is earning you half a football field more than your standard warm body. Look for him to test New England's secondary early in a game where one completed deep shot could down a Patriots team working with their third-string quarterback.
2. Brissett's debut: Earlier this week, NFL Network's Charley Casserly assisted me on a long piece about what it's like to prepare a backup quarterback on short notice. You can read the entire thing here. We left on the cutting room floor a part of my conversation with Casserly where he casually walked upstairs to his office and pulled out a pro-grade scouting reports on Brissett at a moment's notice, but what better time than now to pass it along?
"He had some good movement," Casserly said. "I thought he was poised. His accuracy was a little bit off but you're really looking for positives on Sunday because the guy is going in there with minimum reps. Overall the guy did a heck of a job consdiering where he was coming from."
The report: "Fourth-round grade. Showed the ability to go to the second and third receiver. Has escapability. A decent arm, not a top arm. Saw some batted balls. Accuracy seemed to be an issue. Not a top athlete, did not appear to be a threat as a runner. A "flash" guy. Decision-making was inconsistent. Very quick release."
3. LeGarrette Blount to the rescue? Belichick seems to be able to call on Blount for a gashing, 100-plus yard performance at will, just as he did a week ago against the Miami Dolphins. And while some may caution against doing so with the Texans defense in town, wouldn't it be the preferred option to leaving Brissett in the pocket with an increasingly healthy J.J. Watt? Houston is sixth in defensive DVOA this year, according to Football Outsiders, but when you look closer it shows a team that plays the pass much better. The Texans are 17th against the run and fourth against the pass.
4. Another Brock Osweiler spoiler? Osweiler was the first quarterback to beat the Patriots last year -- a thrilling 30-24 win overtime that saw 275 passing yards from Peyton Manning's former backup. Now, this is his team. The defense is not as good but the offense, theoretically, has just as many weapons.
"He has been impressive," Bill Belichick told reporters earlier this week. "He's hung in there and made some tough throws. Really impressed with his poise and his toughness. He's been hit a few times, but he really hangs in, keeps his eyes downfield, sees the coverage well. He does a good job of getting the ball to all of his receivers. He gets the ball down the field and has a nice touch on the short- to-intermediate balls."
- Thanks to a wonderful idea by teammate Marc Sessler, we'll try and regularly recommend one of our favorite brews for the Monday and Thursday night games. On Monday, we suggested BrewDog's Tokyo* stout, a wild ride at 18% ABV that ended up pairing perfectly with an equally insane performance by Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. This week, we'll try something a little lighter since this one promises to go all four quarters. Even though fall is here, I still associate a good saison with this warm weather sweet spot between September and October. We're not quite ready for the full on pumpkin beer takeover, but a little crispness and spice seems appropriate. If you agree, give The Wild Beer Co.'sEpic Saison a whirl. This beer can pair perfectly with a spicy pad thai or stir fry dish. If you're hosting, Epic also goes nice with an over-the-top cheese spread.