Houston at New England
When: 8:15 PM ET, Saturday, January 14, 2017
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass
FOXBOROUGH – (Special Preview by Sports Xchange) – The Houston Texans visited the New England Patriots in Week 3 and were demolished 27-0, a loss that was more eye-opening given that they were up against a rookie third-string quarterback making his first career start. So it’s hardly a surprise that the top-seeded Patriots are overwhelming favorites in Saturday night’s AFC Divisional Round matchup against visiting Houston.
Tom Brady’s Last Playoff Appearance (a loss at Denver)
The Texans won the AFC South with a 9-7 record and knocked off fifth-seeded Oakland 27-14 in the first round of the playoffs, but they are more than two-touchdown underdogs against New England. “It’s OK if we’re called the underdogs, I kind of like it,” Houston linebacker Whitney Mercilus told reporters. “Definitely get to shock a whole lot of people, so we’re looking forward to that.” 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, but quarterback Tom Brady dismissed the idea that they are looking past the Texans. “I don’t see any letdown from us. That’s ridiculous to think that,” Brady told reporters. “I’m preparing like this is the hardest game we’ve faced all season, which it will be, and it means the most.”
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -15.5. O/U: 44.5
ABOUT THE TEXANS: Houston’s top-ranked defense limited Oakland to 203 total yards and ranked second in the league with 193.3 passing yards allowed, but coach Bill O’Brien — a former Patriots offensive coordinator — admitted the unit won’t show Brady “anything that he hasn’t already seen.” Former No. 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney had a sack in each of the final three regular-season games and added a pivotal interception in last week’s playoff victory. 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.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (14-2): With the untested Jacoby Brissett under center in the early-season matchup, New England leaned on the running game as LeGarrette Blount produced 105 yards and two scores, part of his NFL-leading 18 rushing touchdowns. Brady missed the first meeting while serving a four-game suspension, but he put up spectacular numbers upon his return with 28 touchdown passes against only two interceptions while averaging 296.2 yards per game. Julian Edelman made a team-high 98 catches for a receiving corps that has been bolstered by waiver-wire acquisition Michael Floyd and expects to have Danny Amendola back on Saturday. For all the talk about their offense, the Patriots permitted a league-low 15.6 points and held six of their last seven opponents to 17 or fewer.
1. The Patriots are 7-1 all-time against Houston, including 4-0 at home.
2. Mercilus, who recorded a team-high 7.5 sacks during the regular season, has five in two career postseason contests
3. A win on Saturday will make New England the first team since the merger to advance to six straight conference title games.