J.J. Watt expects to play Sunday with broken hand

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt broke his left hand in practice Wednesday, but still expects to play Sunday against the New England Patriots.

Watt, wearing a cast on his left wrist, sat out Thursday’s practice, but told the media that the injury isn’t as painful as others he has played through. Texans coach Bill O’Brien also said he expects his pass-rushing star to play.

The Texans are 6-6 and tied for first place in the AFC South with the Indianapolis Colts. A win over the suddenly slumping Patriots could give their postseason hopes a huge boost, but they will need Watt to put pressure on Tom Brady. With Rob Gronkowski returning to practice, the New England passing game should be closer to its normal self this weekend.

Watt leads the NFL with 13.5 sacks in 12 games and has also knocked down five passes. Houston’s pass rush is a major reason that they have managed to reach .500 despite a dysfunctional offense that ranks 22nd in points scored. The Patriots rank second in points scored per game and first in passing yards per game, despite injuries having wiped out most of their receiving corps.

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