We couldn't ask for a better matchup on this week's edition of Monday Night Football.
The Houston Texans (11-1) travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Patriots (9-3) in what should be an epic clash of the titans.
These are the top two teams in Matt Miller's most recent power rankings, and are both riding six-game winning streaks into this game.
The two best teams in football will meet on the biggest stage.
Getcha popcorn ready.
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
When: Monday, December 10 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL.com
Betting Line: New England -4 (Bovada)
Houston Injury Report (via Yahoo! Sports as of Dec. 4, 2012)
|J.J. Watt DE||Probable||Illness|
|Ben Tate RB||Probable||Hamstring|
|Brooks Reed LB||Out||Groin|
|Derek Newton T||Out||Knee|
|Johnathan Joseph CB||Out||Hamstring|
|Andre Johnson WR||Probable||Groin|
|Bradie James LB||Out||Hamstring|
|Arian Foster RB||Probable||Not injury related|
|Owen Daniels TE||Probable||Back|
|Antoine Caldwell G||Out||Hamstring|
|Alan Ball CB||Questionable||Foot|
|Brice McCain CB||Day-to-Day||Foot|
New England Injury Report (via Yahoo! Sports as of Dec. 4, 2012)
|Markus Zusevics T||Questionable||Illness|
|Tracy White LB||Questionable||Foot|
|Wes Welker WR||Questionable||Ankle|
|Sebastian Vollmer T||Questionable||Back, knee|
|Brandon Spikes LB||Questionable||Knee|
|Matthew Slater WR||Questionable||Concussion|
|Nick McDonald G||Questionable||Shoulder|
|Kyle Love DT||Questionable||Knee|
|Brandon Lloyd WR||Questionable||Knee|
|Dont'a Hightower LB||Questionable||Hamstring|
|Aaron Hernandez TE||Questionable||Ankle|
|Julian Edelman WR||Questionable||Concussion|
|Dan Connolly G||Questionable||Back|
|Patrick Chung S||Questionable||Shoulder, hamstring|
|Ron Brace DT||Questionable||Elbow|
What's at Stake?
While I won't go so far as to say that the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs is on the line, it's certainly in play when these two teams meet.
Houston is up two game on the Patriots, who are in a three-way tie for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
With a win, the Pats move one step closer to getting a bye week and overtaking the Texans, but this game is not the end-all be-all game.
New England still has to play the San Francisco 49ers and Houston still has the play the Minnesota Vikings and the Indianapolis Colts twice. However, winning this game is a big step toward getting that crucial bye.
Houston WR Andre Johnson
Johnson has been getting it done in the last few weeks despite a poor performance against the Tennessee Titans last week.
Even when you include his 56-yard performance against the Titans last week, in the last three games he is averaging 9.3 receptions on 14.7 targets per game, and is going for 172.3 yards per game.
The Pats rank 27th in the league against fantasy wide receivers, and you can bet that Johnson is going to have a big day on Monday night.
Projected Stats: 12 receptions, 140 yards, 1 TD
New England WR Wes Welker
Houston's defense is tough, but its one weakness comes in the passing game. The team ranks 19th in the league against the pass, and 23rd against fantasy receivers.
Welker is Tom Brady's top target, and with Rob Gronkowski out, he should rack up the receptions.
In the team's last game he was targeted 18 times and caught 12 passes. He has also found the end zone in each of the last two games, and should find it one more time on Monday.
Look for Welker to be one of the top receivers this week.
Projected Stats: 15 receptions, 176 yards, 1 TD
What They're Saying
The first thing we learned from Twitter is from ESPN's Mike Reiss, who tells us just how good Houston's defense is.
Weekly "stat check" highlights red-zone as Patriots prep for Texans, who have allowed fewest red-zone trips/TDs in '12. es.pn/11Nyq93— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) December 4, 2012
The Texans are looking to get into the playoffs sooner rather than later, and the team highlighted its ways to get in on its official Twitter feed.
Key Matchup: New England's high-powered offense vs. Houston's stingy defense
The biggest reason why this game is going to be one of the best in Week 14 is the matchup between the Pats offense and the Texans defense.
Brady and New England's offense have been on fire this season, ranking in the Top 10 in the league in passing as always, but also doing so in terms of running the ball, which is not usually a factor with the Patriots.
Houston's defense, on the other hand, is led by MVP candidate J.J. Watt and ranks second against the run and third in sacks.
This matchup features two MVP candidates squaring off and will be the decisive factor in the game.
This is going to be a tight game throughout, but I have to pick the Pats at home. The team's only home loss this season came in Week 2, and since then New England has won its four home games by an average of 11.0 points per game.
Look for the crowd in Foxborough to lift New England to a close win.
Predicted Score: Patriots 24, Texans 23
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