After Houston, do we have a problem?

When the Houston Texans knocked off the New England Patriots on national television on Sunday night in Week 13, it was one of the few times that a disciple of coach Bill Belichick’s had upstaged his mentor.
So I got to thinking…
Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien served as the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots from 2009-11. In 2016, his Texans lost to the Patriots in the AFC Divisional round, 39-16. But on Dec. 1, 2019, O’Brien cracked the code, directing a Deshaun Watson-led attack past the vaunted Boogeymen, 28-22.
It was also a watershed moment for Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who won three Super Bowls with the Patriots in 2001, 2003, and 2004.
I started to wonder – is the gap closing between the coach and his former mentees?
Last season, former Patriots All-Pro linebacker Mike Vrabel, winner of three Super Bowls, who took over as head coach of the Tennessee Titans prior to the 2018 NFL season, led his team past New England, 34-10. Matt Patricia, who served as Patriots defensive coordinator from 2012-2017, became the head coach of the Detroit Lions in 2018 and immediately made his presence felt, directing the Lions past the Pats 26-10 on Sept. 23, 2018.
It was the Lions first win over the Patriots since 2000, the first year of Belichick’s tenure in New England.
Belichick may have lost to two of his former pupils last season, but that did not deter Brady’s bunch from appearing in their ninth Super Bowl in 18 years – an incredibly amazing feat unparalleled by few in any sport – and winning their sixth championship.
Is this season’s loss to the Texans just another blip on the radar like those of a year ago? The Patriots went about their business, doing their job by going on to defeat the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LII.
We may get some of those answers Sunday when the Patriots welcome Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs to town. It was just a short time ago, that Tom Brady won a shootout in overtime of the AFC Championship, sending the Pats to Super Bowl LII.
While New England’s road to the Super Bowl could run through current AFC West leader Kansas City (8-4) or AFC North leader Baltimore (10-2), it is also a very real possibility that another date with AFC South leader Houston (8-4) or Tennessee (7-5) is just around the corner this postseason.
Before all that can be sorted out though, all eyes will be on the Pats-Chiefs showdown. New England heads into the contest boasting a league-best 10-2 record, tied with Baltimore and NFC favorites New Orleans, Seattle, and San Francisco. It should come to light in the coming weeks if after Houston whether or not the Patriots truly do have a problem.

BEAT THE PUTZ RECAP: It only took one as Westfield’s Harold Fullam was the lone contestant to post a 9-3 record in Week 13 to claim a weekly prize in our “Beat ‘The Putz’” pro football contest. No other contestant managed to beat what turned out to be my 8-4 mark.
Pick up a copy of The Westfield News, The Original Pennysaver, East Longmeadow Reminder, Agawam Reminder, and Chicopee Herald for a free entry form to our “Beat ‘The Putz’” Football Challenge. Beat “The Putz” and finish as the top winner each week for a $25 gift certificate to The Tavern Restaurant. All 17 weekly winners will be entered into a grand prize drawing for a Super Bowl party catered by North Elm Butcher Block ($1,000 value). Second place will be awarded a charcoal grill from Manny’s Appliances, and third place will receive a $100 gift card to the Delaney House.

WEEK 14 PICKS: Carolina, Tampa Bay, Miami, San Francisco, Minnesota, Houston, Baltimore, Cleveland, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Kansas City, L.A. Rams.

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