Patriots-Texans: 3 storylines to watch
Been there done that
While the playoffs might be a relatively new feeling for the Houston Texans, it’s just more of the same for the New England Patriots. That’s not to say they take the postseason for granted, or treat it like every other game, but they do have the ability to treat it like every other playoff game. This is the 10th time New England has qualified for the playoffs under Belichick, and the ninth time they’ve played in the AFC divisional round under him (6-2). While almost all of those Patriots players from the early years are gone, the experience that the newer crop of players have from recent postseasons and last year’s Super Bowl run, as well as what their coaches have been through, is vital going into this one. Houston’s two postseason wins over the Bengals the last two seasons is something, but it pales in comparison to what the majority of this Patriots team has been through – despite not playing a game yet this postseason.
More of the same?
The Patriots are favored by as many as 10 points in Sunday’s game, a true sign of the confidence people have in them to cruise. New England will have a healthy Rob Gronkowski back, something they didn’t have the first time around. That said, Houston’s cornerback Jonathan Joseph played hurt previously and will be ready to go this time around. A closer game means New England’s rush defense will be tested, but it could come down to both team’s weak spots in the end – Texans quarterbck Matt Schaub and the Patriots secondary. Bottom line: Look for New England to pull this thing out, but Houston won’t lay down the way they did earlier this season.
Elements? What elements?
One thing the Texans can be happy about is that they won’t have to deal with the blistery conditions that a cold, New England winter often times offers. In fact, it’ll be pretty mild on Sunday. Tom Brady loves those cold games, and it would benefit the Pats greatly to force Matt Schaub to throw in a snowy, windy Gillette Stadium, but that won’t be the case. The temperature looks to be in the low 50s around kickoff, which means weather won’t be a factor at all.
Bonus Stat: Tom Brady’s quarterback rating in eight career games in the divisional round is 91.6. His high of 137 came last year against Denver.