Patriots: What people are talking about.

By Sterling Pingree

Here is what’s being covered in my conversations about the Patriots this week.

  • Sunday’s game with the Texans is an important second step for the Patriots right now, after they took care of business last week in the Big Easy, they have to follow that up with a solid win at home against Houston. The Patriots have treated the Texans as a little brother since Houston became a contender in 2012. Remember when they wore letterman jackets into their Monday nighter in Foxborough? That was also the one time that JJ Watt looked bad.

In Sports Illustrated’s NFL preview issue, the cover story was about how Houston may have found a defense, in scheme and personnel, that can stifle the Patriots offense. While, it may still be a stretch, the results of last year’s divisional playoff game speak to the pressure that guys like Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney and JJ Watt can bring. While the Texans defense is cause for concern, the Texans offense looks like Brock Osweiler is still playing quarterback. Jacksonville ravaged Tom Savage and DeShaun Watson did juuuuust enough to get by a seemingly anemic Bengals team last week. Am I worried about the Texans coming into Foxborough and leaving town with a win? Not especially, but as good as the Houston defense is, they certainly have my attention due to the injuries that are plaguing the Pats.

  • There are some that are jumping head first into the Phillip Dorsett pool this week. A buddy of mine from Florida, Roger, said that he’s watched the guy since he was at Miami and was surprised he wasn’t a star wide receiver in Indianapolis and fully believes that he is about to make the leap in New England. Dorsett showed off his speed against the Saints and word around the Patriots is that he has been impressive at practice in the short amount of time that he’s been with the organization.
  • The other side of the coin is, Pats fans don’t know what to make of Brandin Cooks yet. He’s shown bursts of speed and flashes of athleticism, but he hasn’t lived up to the incredible hype that surrounded his addition in the offseason. Cooks is finding his way with this team and Brady seems comfortable airing it out to him, but I wonder if he’s going to be a volume guy in this offense or as a constant deep threat that can take the top off of a defense?
  • There’s a lot of talk about whether the Patriots are going to trade Malcolm Butler. There was talk during the off season that he could be dealt to the Saints, to the point that Butler took a meeting in New Orleans, but those talks eventually went nowhere. After Belichick and Matt Patricia’s respective press conferences this week Butler’s name elicited almost no response the rumor mill started spinning. At the same time, when Eric Rowe’s name was brought up, Belichick talked about him for minutes (which for other coaches would equate to narrating his episode of A Football Life.)

The first I heard of the Butler trade rhetoric was on Bill Simmons podcast when he brought up the fact that Rowe actually started over Butler and that there is a chance stemming from the coaches reluctance to discuss the Super Bowl 49 hero that perhaps he could go the way of Jamie Collins. Collins was traded to Cleveland on Halloween last year, roughly 3 weeks after the Patriots played the Browns in Cleveland. If a franchise altering trade does go down, it seems likely that it could be any time in October and it will be when we least expect it.

  • After the Panthers 9-3 win against Buffalo last weekend, what once was thought to be a tough schedule to start the season with KC, New Orleans in the dome followed by Houston and Carolina at home suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. Houston and Carolina are having a tough time scoring points and that is just what this Patriots defense needs as it searches for its identity. A good litmus test for next week’s clash with Carolina is that the Panthers host the Saints this weekend. If Cam Newton and company can’t put up points on that “Aints” defense this weekend, then Deatrich Wise Jr. and company might look like Dick Butkus and the Monsters of the Midway next Sunday at Gillette.

Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.