Some of the most talented players in the NFL—J.J. Watt, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster—call H-Town home, but the Texans simply haven’t played up to their potential this past month. If they fail to do so again, they won’t be able to keep pace with the Pats.
Here’s the spread info, line and predictions for their divisional round showdown.
Where: Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
When: Sunday, Jan. 13 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Listen: Sirus XM Radio: 86 or online at Audio Pass
Spread: New England -10 (according to Bovada)
The Patriots typically beat teams by an average of 14.1 points and they defeated the Texans by the score of 42-14 in Week 14. And considering that New England’s defense allows 20.7 points per game and Houston has been unable to score at least 20 points the past three weeks, Tom Brady and company are a safe bet to cover the spread.
Over/Under: 48 (according to Bovada)
While the Pats shouldn’t struggle to put up over 24 points, Houston will. In the second half of the season, the only teams that the Texans were able to score that many points against were their division foes and the Detroit Lions. But given that New England games typically end with 55.5 points on the board and Houston games with 46.7, over is still the better bet.
Houston TE Owen Daniels is questionable with a shoulder injury.
Houston TE Garrett Graham is probable with a concussion.
Houston LB Brooks Reed is probable with a groin injury.
Houston CB Alan Ball is questionable with a foot injury.
New England WR Brandon Lloyd is questionable with a knee injury.
New England TE Aaron Hernandez is questionable with an ankle injury.
New England TE Rob Gronkowski is questionable with a forearm and hip injury.
New England WR Wes Welker is questionable with an ankle injury.
New England LB Rob Ninkovich is questionable with a hip injury.
Fantasy Big Plays
Houston: TE Owen Daniels
Only three teams in the NFL surrendered more passing yards than the Patriots this season. Their greatest weakness is also at the safety position.
Matt Schaub also can’t throw to Andre Johnson on every play. Daniels was the Texans’ second-leading receiver in the regular season, and against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, he led the team with nine receptions for 91 yards.
In what must turn into a shootout for Houston, expect Daniels to get plenty more targets.
New England: WR Brandon Lloyd
Houston’s run defense may be intimidating, but its 16th-ranked pass defense isn’t. Brady tossed four touchdown passes in their first meeting and his second-favorite target this season, Lloyd, will be the beneficiary of playing the Texans’ mediocre secondary once again.
In Week 14, Houston managed to hold Wes Welker to just three catches while Lloyd went wild. The former Denver Bronco caught seven balls for 89 yards and a touchdown. He may be banged up, but so are the rest of the Pats’ best receivers, so someone needs to step up and it might as well be Lloyd.
Keys to Houston Win
In just his second playoff appearance, Matt Schaub needs to go off. He can’t finish with around an 83.4 passer rating like last week. That won’t do with Brady on the other side.
Schaub must play the game of his life and lead the Texans to victory in a high-scoring affair. It’ll be nearly impossible for J.J. Watt and Arian Foster to do all the heavy lifting against a stacked Patriots team.
Keys to New England Win
New England can’t allow Arian Foster to do all the heavy lifting. The halfback put the team on his back against the Bengals rushing for a whopping 140 yards and a touchdown. The Pats held him to just 46 yards in their first matchup, but much of that was because the Texans were in catch-up mode most of the day.
If Brady ignites an early lead again, he’d take the game out of Foster’s hands and that’s exactly what New England wants. The longer that Houston keeps it on the ground, the longer the ball is out of Brady's hands.
The Patriots aren’t that much more talented than the Texans. The thing is, though, they entered the postseason hot while Houston is ice-cold. At this point, a Texans win would be shocking.
New England wins 31-20
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.