BOSTON (CBS) -- Injuries have kept Texans defensive end J.J. Watt out of the lineup for most of the last two seasons, but that doesn't make the New England Patriots feel any better about their Week 1 matchup with Houston this weekend.
When Watt lines up across from Tom Brady as New England and Houston kick off the 2018 season against each other, the Patriots expect to once again have their hands full with the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
"We expect every player we play against to be at their best. We always expect their best performance. And we usually get that. That's what we expect from J.J," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told reporters on a Monday Conference call. "J.J.'s a great player. He's very talented. He's got a great motor. He's very instinctive, he's a very smart player as well as one who has outstanding physical skill. We'll always expect their best and prepare for it."
Watt is one of the best in the business when it comes to making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks, but he's taken the field for just eight games over the last two seasons (logging just 1.5 sacks in those games). He played against the Patriots in Week 3 last season and recorded six total tackles and two stuffs in New England's 36-33 win, but his 2017 season ended a few weeks later when he suffered a broken leg in Week 5.
The 29-year-old was back on the field for Houston this preseason and Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is expecting big things out of Watt in the upcoming season. While he'll command a lot of attention from the New England offensive line on Sunday, Belichick knows there is a lot more to worry about from the Houston front seven.
"They have a group of outstanding players, I mean, they're amongst the very best in the league," said Belichick. "Very challenging and they have good depth, so they rotate some players through there that are maybe not quite as good as the others, but they're still really good players. It's a very talented team in all three phases of the game."
The Patriots have actually done a great job containing Watt when they've squared off against him and the Texans. Watt is 0-5 in his career against the Patriots, and he's yet to record a sack on Brady.
Tune in to Patriots-Texans Sunday afternoon on WBZ-TV -- the flagship station of the New England Patriots! Pregame coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. with Patriots GameDay, and after the game catch Bill Belichick and Tom Brady's press conferences LIVE on Patriots 5th Quarter!
for more features.