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AFC East Playoffs Preview: Houston Texans at New England Patriots

On Sunday, the New England Patriots (12-4) will return to the field after their bye and host the Houston Texans (12-4). In their last meeting on Dec. 10, the Patriots routed the Texans 42-14. This started an end-of-season skid for the team, going 1-3 in their last four games and losing their opportunity for the division’s top seed.

While they still easily won the AFC South, the Texans needed to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 19-13 last week before meeting the Patriots. It was not the most exciting game and one takeaway from it was the team would need some improvement to defeat their opponent this week.

Last week’s game represented Texans quarterback Matt Schaub’s first postseason start; he went 29 for 38 passes, 262 yards and one interception that resulted in a pick 6.

Texans WR Arian Foster

Running back Arian Foster was vital for the win with his 32 carries for 140 yards and one touchdown. He was also active in the air with his eight receptions for 34 yards.

There are expectations for the talented back to continue performing with 11 to 4 odds to record the greatest rushing yards in the divisional round while his teammate wide receiver Andre Johnson sits at 4 to 1 to achieve the highest receiving yards for the divisional games.

Last year in the postseason, Johnson grabbed 201 receiving yards.

On Sunday, the Texans will need put their Dec. 10 game behind them. It was a very dominant performance by the Patriots who quickly took a 21-0 lead. The team was able to stop Texans running back Arian Foster that day as he had 15 carries for 41 yards and one touchdown.

After practicing with brooms to prepare for Defensive MVP contender J.J. Watt, it appeared to do the job as the player only had two tackles and zero sacks.

This isn’t Watt’s first playoff rodeo and he’ll try to improve from the teams’ last meeting. He has four sacks in his three-game playoff career and will look to increase this number on Sunday.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady played well in the first match up, going 21 for 35, 296 yards and four scores. His weapons for that game included wide receivers Aaron Hernandez (two touchdowns), Brandon Lloyd (two touchdowns) and Donte Stallworth (one touchdown).

For the divisional round, Patriots wide receivers Wes Welker (6 to 1) and Lloyd (8 to 1) could sit at the top for the team in highest receiving yards but this week Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will return. He is tied at No. 4 in the league with 11 touchdown catches and is a favorite Brady target.

Patriots QB Tom Brady

The Patriots will enter the match up with confidence but earlier this week Brady tried to downplay this with, “I think you learn from it. You also understand things aren’t going to be the same. They’re going to see things that they’re working on that are going to be different for us this time around. We do the same thing.”

With a Sunday win, Brady can move past quarterback Joe Montana and a set record 17th postseason game win.

Experience is very much on his side as he has a 16-6 playoff record; a 62.9 completion rate, 240.2 yards per game average, 38 touchdowns to 20 interceptions and 87.8 passer rating.

Playing at Gillette Stadium is also a good thing for Brady as he is 10-2 in the playoffs with his most recent losses coming after the Patriots crushed their opponent at home during the regular season but then fell short. This included ones against the New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens.

But Brady had a great regular season, throwing for 34 touchdowns and leading the division with 4,827 passing yards.

For this year’s divisional round, Brady is 7 to 2 for the most passing yards tied with Green Packers Aaron Rodgers for the honor.

New England is tough to beat on a good day and the playoffs will be no exception. The winning nod goes to them (-9.5, 49 o/u).

The game is at 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.


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