While the 2013 NFL playoffs have been full of amazing moments, Sunday’s marquee matchup between the Houston Texans (12-4) and the New England Patriots (12-4) has a chance to be the best matchup of the postseason.
Each team has a clear advantage—New England has the superior offensive unit and Houston has the much better defense—but something has to give in this divisional-round matchup.
This is the perfect way to end a wild weekend of postseason football.
Add in the fact that an AFC Championship Game berth is on the line, and there is little doubt that the Texans versus Patriots game in Foxborough will steal the show Sunday.
Houston Texans at New England Patriots: 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS
The New England Patriots come into Sunday’s divisional-round matchup with the Houston Texans as the 9.5-point favorite (h/t Covers.com), but this game is far from a lock.
New England is playing at home, but it will be the team’s elite passing attack that makes the real difference. Led by star quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots boast the fourth-best passing attack in the NFL—averaging 291.4 yards per game—and will push Houston’s defense to its limit.
Cornerback Johnathan Joseph has returned to full strength after dealing with a hamstring issue this season, and the entire Texans secondary will benefit from his presence. Houston is ranked 16th in the league against the pass—allowing 225.8 yards per game—but it will need to step up huge to stop Brady and the New England offensive attack.
The ultimate X-factor in this matchup, though, is how the Texans offense plays against the Patriots defense.
While New England’s defense has been stingy to end the season—it allowed 19 points or less in five of the team’s last six games—Houston’s offensive attack, led by Arian Foster, has been lackluster at best to finish the season.
In Foster’s last matchup with New England, the skilled back was held to 15 carries for just 46 yards and one touchdown; that simply won’t be good enough Sunday.
With so much on the line and two rosters so evenly matched on paper, this game will come down to which team plays the most efficient football Sunday.
The Texans may have won in the Wild Card Round against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the team’s test against the Patriots will be tougher than what Houston can handle.
Prediction: New England 41, Houston 31