While the New England Patriots entered Monday night's game as the favorite against the Texans, a 42-14 outcome was certainly not expected. Tom Brady and Co. dominated in all facets of the game and—while still behind Houston in the AFC playoff race—might have emerged as favorites in the conference.
The Falcons, on the other hand, fell to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon. Cam Newton's 72-yard touchdown run in the third quarter extended the lead to 23-0, a deficit Atlanta couldn't quite overcome.
After the losses, both teams own 11-2 records and are the still the top seed in their respective conference. However, the gap is closing fast and the question now becomes: Which of these two teams may have been masquerading all along?
While both teams have their apparent flaws and could eventually lose ground as the season closes—or bow out early in the postseason—Houston's performance on Monday night simply can not be ignored.
The Texans may still be considered one of the more balanced teams in the NFL, but their inability to stop the opposition from doing what they want through the air on offense will be this team's demise in the postseason.
Of the potential AFC playoff teams—Patriots, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals—all feature passing offenses that rank in the top half of the entire league.
Though home-field advantage could help mitigate this issue, Houston's pass defense has also failed to show up at Reliant Stadium at times this season.
The Texans gave up 338 yards and six touchdowns to Aaron Rodgers in a Week 6 loss. They also allowed Chad Henne to amass 354 yards and four touchdowns in a game that took a 527-yard, five-touchdown performance from Matt Schaub to win.
Facing Andrew Luck and Indy's eighth-ranked passing offense twice to close out the season could actually cost the Texans the AFC South title, let alone the conference's top seed.
Schaub has never won a playoff game and the team as a whole still has little postseason exposure—something not conducive to extended success when potentially facing the likes of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning or Joe Flacco in the playoffs.
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