After clinching a playoff berth at Tennessee last weekend, the Houston Texans probably felt like opening up a few bottles of bubbly in the moments that followed.
But having to play their third straight road game in New England, where the Patriots are 28-2 in their last 30 home games and 10-1 on Monday Night Football, the result of this game, rather than the champagne, might be the cause of this week's hangover on the team plane.
The Texans' recent two-game road winning streak has propelled them to 6-0 on the road and the only undefeated road team in the league.
As far as making it to 7-0, history is against them.
The hot streak was helped on Thanksgiving by a Lions' field-goal attempt that bounced off the right side of the goal post in overtime at Detroit.
A week later, the Texans received six turnovers from the Titans in Tennessee.
Prior to that pair of road games, they were a 15-point favorite at home against Jacksonville, a team with nothing to lose, and they played like it. After trading field goals in overtime, the Jaguars set the Texans up with good field position after failing to convert a 4th-and-10 from inside Houston territory instead of punting the ball at the 47-yard line, which led to a Texans touchdown two plays later.
Starting with that overtime win at home against Jacksonville, the Texans, even with one of the NFL's fiercest defenders in J.J. Watt, have allowed an average of 352 passing yards in their last three games. The numbers are a bit skewed since two of those games went to overtime, but Jacksonville and Detroit still managed to score over 30 regulation points while Jake Locker passed for over 300 yards (but was responsible for five turnovers).
That could be troubling for Houston on Monday night, especially with cornerback Bryce McCain out with a foot injury and All-Pro Jon Joseph listed as questionable with a hamstring injury.
This is a huge game for both teams as it could decide who gets home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs. If New England wins, it will own the tiebreaker with the Texans. As a result, if the two teams end up with equal records, the Texans may end up traveling up to Foxboro in late January for potential cold and snowy conditions where the Patriots thrive.
The Patriots didn't have a dominating performance last week at Miami and gained "only" 321 yards, a season low, but they still won the game despite Tom Brady throwing his first interception in six games.
If the Patriots are to ever have such a game, it's good they have it in the rear-view mirror at Miami rather than against Houston.
Through all this and despite their 11-1 record, the Texans find themselves to be underdogs by about a field goal in New England
And for good reason.
It’s hard to simply win a game in the NFL, let alone a road game. It’s twice as hard to win two road games in a row. But winning three games in a row on the road (with no home games in between) is something less than 10 percent of teams have been able to do in recent memory.
From 1988 until 1999, NFL teams went on the road for three consecutive times on 74 occasions. That number sharply declined over the next decade, as teams had this inconvenience just over 30 times prior to the 2010 season.
One thing that stayed consistent was the lack of a three-game winning streak during the stretch.
Teams took to the road for three consecutive games on 15 occasions in 2010 and 2011, and only the 2010 Atlanta Falcons were able to pull it off in the last two years. However, Atlanta's third road game was at Seattle, a team that was just 6-7 on the season and was listed as a six-point home underdog.
When it comes to winning all three games consecutively on the road in the NFL since 1988, it’s happened just 10 times out of more than 115 chances, and only seven teams have been able achieve it over the last 22 years.
Houston will be the second and final team to have to do this in 2012, but it's faced with a bad time and place to try to pull it off.
With 59 articles in the books (all predictions) and a record of 37-17 with five ties, I'll turn to the New England Patriots to bring home the bacon and win by more than a field goal for this week's top play.
Not only are the Patriots are 28-2 in their last 30 regular-season home games, they are 42-5 in December since 2001, 23-0 in the second half of the season since December 2009 and have won 19 straight home games in December.
In lieu of three straight road wins for the Texans, look for Patriots to make it 20 straight home wins in December.
Take New England minus the points
Follow Mark all season at www.TheFallMiracle.com