Houston (10-7) at New England (14-2)
When: Saturday, January 14th 2017
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA
Time: 8:15 ET | TV: CBS
The New England Patriots are big favorites this coming Saturday when they host the Houston Texans in an AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Houston finished the season winning the AFC South at 9-7, but received a home game against the 12-4 Oakland Raiders and took care of them 27-14. Houston’s top-ranked defense took advantage of the Raiders’ third-string quarterback making his first career start. One of Houston’s worst defensive displays this season came in Week 3 at New England when the Patriots third-string QB and rushing attack blanked the Texans 27-0. Houston limited Oakland to 203 total yards and ranked second in the league with 193.3 passing yards allowed. Linebacker Whitney Mercilus who recorded a team-high 7.5 sacks during the regular season, has five in two career postseason games. Quarterback Brock Osweiler, who reclaimed his starting job when Tom Savage suffered a concussion in Week 17, threw for 168 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders and 196 yards in Week 3 at New England. Lamar Miller gained 80 yards on 21 carries versus the Patriots but managed only 73 on 31 rushes a week ago.
Tom Brady missed the first meeting with Houston while serving a four-game suspension, but showed no signs of rust as he threw for 28 touchdowns to only two interceptions in the 12 games he played. The Patriots closed the season with a seven-game winning streak and have outscored Houston 54-6 in two matchups over the last 13 months. With Jacoby Brissett under center in the early-season matchup, New England leaned on the running game as LeGarrette Blount ran for 105 yards and two scores, part of his NFL-leading 18 rushing touchdowns. Julian Edelman made a team-high 98 catches as Brady’s top target and expects to have Danny Amendola (ankle) back on Saturday. New acquisition Michael Floyd made his presence known in Week 17 with three grabs for 36 yards and a TD against the Dolphins. The underrated Patriots defense allowed a league-low 15.6 points this season and held six of their last seven opponents to 17 or fewer. The Patriots are 7-1 all-time against Houston, including 4-0 at home. A win on Saturday will make New England the first team since the merger to advance to six straight conference title games.
I don’t think there’s any possible way the Texans can win this game, but I do think they can keep it close. Week 3 was a long time ago and Houston’s defense is outstanding. I’m going to call for a Texans cover because I just think that’s way too many points in a playoff game, but if Osweiler starts turning the ball over, look out.
Pick: Texans +15.5