The New England Patriots will kick off their 2018 regular season at Gillette Stadium against a Houston Texans team that will be chomping at the bit.

Houston suffered a lost season in 2017 after losing quarterback Deshaun Watson and star defensive ends J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercillus for the season with injuries. Before the rash of injuries, the Texans gave the Pats all they could handle at Gillette in Week 3, with Tom Brady connecting with Brandin Cooks for a game-winning touchdown to spoil Watson’s coming-out party.

The Texans should be healthy when the season opens, and they added a new addition to an already vaunted defense. One that is looking forward to his first tilt against Brady.

“I was just talking to somebody about that,” safety Tyrann Mathieu told reporters, via Pro Football Talk. “It’s going to be fun. Brady’s special. He’s a special player. I look up to him in a lot of different ways. He’s the ultimate competitor. For me, it’s just about getting in front of him and seeing what he’s got.”

Mathieu was released by the Arizona Cardinals in March after refusing to take a pay cut. The talented ball hawk played his first five NFL season with Arizona, and never has faced Brady. The lone time the Cardinals have played the Pats in that time frame was when Brady was suspended to open the 2016 season due to the Deflategate saga.

Week 1 will be filled with good matchups, but watching Watson, Watt and Mathieu battle Brady and Bill Belichick might be the marquee game of the opening Sunday.

Thumbnail photo via Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports Images