Championship matchup between Brady (NFL) and Watson (CFP)
By JIMMY GOLEN
Sep. 22, 2017
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots won't be the only winners on the field on Sunday when they play the Texans.
Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson is just eight months removed from the College Football Playoff title he won at Clemson. According to the Texans, it's only the second time in the BCS era that the quarterbacks for the reigning NCAA champion and NFL champion have played against each other.
"He was super-talented, obviously, in college," said Brady, who got to see Watson when the teams held joint practices in West Virginia during training camp. "(It) was a lot of fun for me to see young, kind of aspiring players that really want to work hard and play the quarterback position at a high level. He looks like he has all the talent."
Since winning the NCAA title, Watson was the No. 12 overall draft pick by the Texans. He entered the season as the backup to Tom Savage, but came off the bench in the second half and then started in a 13-9 victory over Cincinnati in Week 2.
In two games, Watson has completed 27 of 47 passes for 227 yards, one touchdown and one interception. So he was almost giddy to receive such compliments from Brady, who has thrown for 459 touchdowns and more than 60,000 yards while picking up five Super Bowl rings.
"Just having an opportunity to talk to him and get to meet him and hear those words is awesome," said Watson, who was 4 when Brady was picked by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. "I've been watching Brady since I was a little kid. Being able to be in the vicinity of him and see him play live is going to be awesome."
The only other time the quarterbacks from the reigning NCAA and NFL champions met in the next season was in 2011, when Cam Newton (Auburn) faced defending Super Bowl champion Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Here are some other things to look for in this week's game:
GETTING HEALTHY: The Patriots had some injuries in training camp and early in the season, but the trend this week appeared to be positive.
Linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and receiver Danny Amendola (concussion, knee) were both back at practice after missing Sunday's game against New Orleans. So were receivers Philip Dorsett (knee) and Chris Hogan (knee) and defensive back Eric Rowe (groin), who were injured against the Saints.
Rob Gronkowski, who injured his groin Sunday, was at practice but listed as not participating. On Monday, he said he was "day to day" and that he didn't think his injury was serious.
The Patriots only dressed three receivers for the Saints game.
GETTING HEALTHY, TOO: Texans defensive end J.J. Watt will be playing with a broken left ring finger, but after missing 13 games last season following his second back surgery, he said this one wasn't a big deal.
"I haven't had use of that finger for a long time because I tore a tendon on it a few years back on it," the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year said. "So it wasn't very useful anyway. I don't really need it that much so it doesn't bother me."
Texans coach Bill O'Brien said cornerback Johnathan Joseph and receiver Bruce Ellington will be able to play, but receiver Will Fuller is out.
FAMILIAR FACES: The Patriots and Texans have already played three times — one each in the preseason, regular season and playoffs — in the past 12 months. They also held joint practices in West Virginia during training camp.
"I feel like we're almost back in the division here," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We had great work with them down there in West Virginia, so we could really see up close how talented they are and how competitive they are."
The Patriots held joint practices with Tampa Bay in 2013, and then beat the Buccaneers in the regular season — also in Week 3.
AP Pro Football Writer Howard Fendrich and AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken contributed to this story.