In many ways, predicting the Houston Texans to beat the New England Patriots is a dangerous move. The game is in New England, the Patriots have won six games in a row and the Texans have needed two overtime games to maintain their own six-game winning streak.
But I'm picking the Texans anyway, and I'm picking them to win in a big way.
For one, New England will be without Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. For as many weapons as the Patriots have, playing the Texans without two of the key cogs in the passing game will hurt.
For another, the Patriots have been so formidable offensively this year because the running game has been the eighth-best in the league. When you face a Patriots offense capable of churning out 140.8 rushing yards per game, it makes them nearly impossible to game plan for.
But the Texans don't have to concern themselves as much with that fact, as Houston allows just 87.6 rushing yards per contest. Where the Texans has struggled at points this year is in pass defense, and if the Patriots are going to score points it will have to be through the air.
But let's not sleep on this Houston offense, ranked 10th in passing yards (247.1 yards per game) and sixth in rushing yards (142.5 yards per game). While New England's defense has been much improved this year, they're going to have issues slowing down Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels.
If you look at the elite competition this Houston team is faced this year, they seem more battle-tested as well. The Texans have wins over the Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears. The only loss on the season came against the Green Bay Packers. This is a team that plays its best against the best.
The Patriots' best win of the year came against Denver, while they lost to the Ravens, Arizona Cardinals (how crazy does that loss seem right now?) and Seattle Seahawks. We're going to learn a lot about the Patriots in the next two weeks against the Texans and San Francisco 49ers.
Now, there is always the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick factor. While I think the matchup at large favors the Texans, the wily schemes of Belichick and the cool, calm and clutch presence of Brady should not be understated.
But I have a feeling JJ Watt is going to frustrate Brady quite a bit, and the Texans pass rush will disrupt the timing of New England's passing attack. The Texans are third in the NFL with 36 sacks, and one of the keys to stopping Brady has always been generating pressure with four rushers and dropping seven.
Houston can pull off that feat, and it will lead to a surprisingly big win for the Texans, who take this one 31-14.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets had home-field advantage wrapped up weeks ago.
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