The New England Patriots have had no issues winning without Tom Brady to begin the season, going 2-0 with Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting quarterback. But the rest of the team will truly be put to the test when Jacoby Brissett likely steps in as the signal caller in Week 3.
Garoppolo suffered a shoulder injury on Sunday, and with little time to recover for New England’s game against the Houston Texans on “Thursday Night Football,” it appears that head coach Bill Belichick will be forced to start the rookie. Brissett made his debut when Garoppolo left Sunday’s contest, and he’ll be under the spotlight if he starts for the first time in New England’s nationally televised game.
Brissett, the 91st overall pick in April's draft, played the entire second half of the Patriots’ 31-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins, but little was required of him in order for New England to win. He entered the game with a 24-3 lead, and after the Patriots scored on their opening drive of the third quarter, New England didn’t get on the board for the rest of the contest. The Dolphins made things close as the Patriots’ offense stalled, but Miami was unable to complete the comeback.
Brissett’s overall numbers were more than acceptable. He completed six of nine passes for 92 yards, rushing four times for 12 yards. He was sacked twice, and New England went to a conservative game plan, looking to limit Brissett's mistakes and escape with a victory.
On Thursday, Brissett won’t enter the game with a 21-point cushion. He’ll be facing a 2-0 Texans team that has allowed just 26 total points in two games. Houston hasn’t given up a touchdown in their last six quarters.
Houston defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 19-12 on Sunday, taking sole possession of first place in the AFC South. Led by three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, the Texans rank first in the NFL with nine sacks. Having been criticized in college for taking too many sacks, Brissett could be in for a long night at Gillette Stadium.
But Houston’s offense has had its own struggles through the first two weeks, and the unit won’t have an easy time moving the ball against New England’s defense. Brock Osweiler hasn’t been anything special with three interceptions and a 79.2 passer rating in two games with the Texans, and the Patriots have already proven they can slow down top offenses. A week before the Arizona Cardinals scored 40 points against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they were held to just 21 points by New England.
Brissett will have to make some plays on Thursday, but he’ll have plenty of help against the Texans. Rob Gronkowski, arguably the best playmaker in the NFL, is expected to make his season debut against Houston. The tight end missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury, and he could put up big numbers upon his return. In 17 combined playoff and regular-season games last year, Gronkowski scored 14 touchdowns.
Brady might be the best quarterback of all time, but his absence has highlighted the importance of Belichick. Inserting relatively unknown quarterbacks into the lineup, the coach has gone 12-5 without Brady since 2008. Despite his limited experience, Brissett could achieve the kind of success that the likes of Garoppolo and Matt Cassell have had when Brady’s been unable to play.
New England managed to win in Week 1 when Las Vegas and online sportsbooks made them heavy underdogs. The Patriots are getting points, once again, as Houston starts the week as 2.5-point favorites, via OddsShark.
With an over/under of 41 points, the game is expected to be a low-scoring affair. Points might be hard to come by on Thursday night, but New England has proven that they don’t need an elite quarterback to win. Belichick should put Brissett in a position to succeed with a good chance to keep the Patriots perfect on the season.
Prediction: New England over Houston, 20-17