Maybe I'm disrespecting the Texans. After all, they were in line for the AFC's top seed prior to a late-season collapse.
But here's the thing: That collapse was sparked—and, in the playoffs, completed—by New England's thorough domination of the Texans not once, but twice.
The Texans get to be this high in the rankings in part out of respect for their talent, and in part because the AFC East beyond New England isn't any good. But I don't see them as an especially difficult matchup for the Patriots unless something drastic changes.
Sure, they added Ed Reed, who at 34 still demonstrated center fielder range for the Ravens last season. But he's replacing Glover Quin, an underrated safety who isn't much (if at all) worse than Reed at this point.
Beyond that, they just don't scheme well for the Patriots. The Texans live and die by their blitz, and against the Patriots, they die. Brady torches them when they send more than four rushers: to the tune of 27 for 41 passing, 375 yards, and six touchdowns, per Bleacher Report's Erik Frenz.
Maybe the Texans take a step forward next year and become as adept at finishing the season as they were at starting it. But if things stay the same, I don't see Houston beating the Pats.