The AFC Divisional Playoffs are just a few days away. On Saturday, Baltimore travels to Denver, but on Sunday, in the afternoon game, New England hosts Houston. Keep reading for a full breakdown on the New England versus Houston matchup!
AFC ATS Playoff Breakdown
Houston Texans 13-4 at New England Patriots 12-4
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusettes
When: Jan. 13 at 4:30 pm ET
Betting Odds: New England -9.5
New England Patriots
For the Patriots it all started during the summer with the dream of an undefeated season. The Arizona Cardinals put an end to that idea quickly in Week 2 by beating the heavily favored Pats 20 to 18. A loss in Week 3 to Baltimore had football experts wondering if New England was even going to make the Playoffs, but, as is often the case, QB Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick righted the ship as New England coasted to a 12 and 4 regular season record. Check out some of the highlights:
31 to 21 victory over Denver in Week 5 – – Granted, Peyton Manning hadn’t hit his stride just yet at Mile High, but it was still a great win for New England.
59 to 24 victory over Indianapolis in Week 11 – – Indy went 11 and 5 during the regular season. They didn’t even belong on the same field as the Pats in this contest.
42 to 14 victory over Houston in Week 14 – – You think this is the “key” game for this weekend? Yeah…probably!
28 to 0 victory over Miami in Week 17 – – The Patriots defense shut out the ‘Fins and held Miami’s offense to only 47 yards rushing. It’s a key game because it shows how the Patriots’ defense has matured.
At one time, the Texans were the hottest team in the NFL. Going into their bye week, the Texans sat on a 6 and 1 straight up record, quarterback Matt Schaub had recorded QB ratings of at least 100 or more in 4 out of those 6 games, and Houston was the Vegas odds favorite to get to the Super Bowl.
Now, after losing 3 out of their final 4 regular season games and barely getting past Cincinnati in the Wild Card Round, the Texans are a +800 dog just to win the AFC Championship. Keep reading for Houston’s highlight victories this season:
43 to 13 victory over Baltimore in Week 7 – – The Ravens were still a pretty good team at that point and Houston smacked them in the mouth.
13 to 6 win over Chicago in Week 10 – – The Texans won with defense at Soldier Field in Chicago. At the time, the Bears were in the driver’s seat in the NFC North Division.
34 to 31 victory over Detroit in Week 12 – – Yes, Houston was aided by the now infamous Jim Schwartz red flag throw at the end of the game, but, hey, a victory in Motown on Thanksgiving is always an accomplishment for an AFC team.
29 to 17 win over Indianapolis in Week 15 – – Houston needed the victory as the Colts were right on their heels in the AFC South Division.
19 to 13 win over Cincinnati in the Wild Card Round – – The Bengals went into the Playoff game hot having gone 7 and 1 both straight up and against the spread in their last 8 games.
New England Patriots: QB Tom Brady
In the words of my three year old son, “Duh!” Although El Guapo finished the season with a less than 100 overall QB rating, Brady’s is at 98.7, there’s no doubt why the New England Patriots have been a successful franchise for the past decade. It’s all because of Mr. Giselle who racked up 4827 passing yards and threw 34 touchdowns to only 8 picks this season. If TB had completed more than 63% of his passes in 2012, he’d be stalking a league MVP.
Houston Texans: DE J.J. Watt
The popular pick is definitely RB Arian Foster, but unless Houston’s defense plays well, the Texans probably don’t even make the playoffs. Watt is the single reason that the Texans were able to hide their at times hideous secondary play because he terrorized quarterbacks all season long. Watt recorded 81 combined tackles, 69 were solo, which is a huge number for a defensive end, and 12 were assisted. J.J. also recorded 20.5 sacks and forced 4 fumbles. The man is the key to Houston’s success on Sunday.
The Futures Market: Odds to Win AFC Championship
New England Patriots: +135
The defense is coming around, it gave up a total of 16 points in the Patriots’ last two regular season games and it’s allowing only 102 rushing yards per contest, the running game is solid, ranked seventh in the NFL and posting 136.5 yards per game on average, and that guy Tom Brady still squats under center. New England is the pick to win the entire AFC. At the odds, they’re a big overlay.
Houston Texans: +800
They used to be the favorite to win the AFC, but that was when Matt Schaub was playing like John Elway and not like Aaron Brooks, the former New Orleans Saints QB who had a single, non-speaking K-Swiss commercial in 1999. Brooks ended his career with a 78.5 QB rating. Schaub’s QB ratings in his last three games have been 72.1, 66.3 and 83.4. When your signal caller is playing that badly, you’re not going anywhere in the NFL Playoffs.
Houston Texans at New England Patriots: Analysis
All of the trends actually point to the Texans beating the spread in this contest, but I’m not sold. To me, the Patriots figure to roll over Houston. There are three reasons for that.
First, Houston’s defense was great against Andy Dalton and A.J. Green in their win over Cincinnati last weekend, but a closer look reveals that Dalton missed a couple of deep throws that could have turned into scores. Tom Brady won’t miss those throws. Second, Houston’s offense is predicated on rushing the ball now that Matt Schaub is playing like a rookie. The Patriots’ D has become good at stuffing the run.
Finally, New England beat Houston 42 to 14 already this season and not enough has changed for me to switch gears on the Patriots. They should roll over the Texans again.
Free Pick: New England Patriots -9.5