On the back of running back Arian Foster’s 32 carries, 140 yards and a touchdown, the Houston Texans defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 19-13, in Saturday’s wild card matchup and will now take on the Patriots in next Sunday’s divisional matchup at Gillette Stadium (4:30 p.m., CBS).
For the Texans it is a matter of which team will show up. Houston was considered the best team in all of football at one point, starting the year 11-1 before losing three of its last four games and falling to the No. 3 overall seed in the AFC at 12-4 overall.
The Texans played better than they did down the stretch in the regular season on Saturday, but still it wasn’t near what they were like in the first 12 games of the season. The issue for the Texans has been their inability to find the end zone.
In their three losses to end the finish the year they didn’t score more than 16 points in any of those games. They didn’t have any problem at all offensively through the first 12 games as they averaged 29.25 points per game.
One area to focus on in next week’s matchup is how well the Patriots can run the ball. Houston comes into the game having the seventh best run defense in the league, while the Patriots are the seventh best rushing team in the league, averaging 136.5 yards per game. The Patriots are a perfect 12-0 when they rush for over 100 yards, but are 0-4 when they don’t.
Ironically, the Texans started their downward spiral after their Week 14 matchup in New England on Monday Night Football. The Patriots dominated the Texans from the start and rolled to a 42-14 win. Houston is already looking forward to a rematch as immediately following their win Saturday Foster said, “we owe them one.”
There is no question there will be some discussion this week of the last time the Patriots faced a team in the playoffs that they beat thoroughly in the regular season. Everyone remembers the 2010 season when the Patriots smacked the Jets, 45-3, in Week 13, also on Monday Night Football, and then the Jets came into Gillette Stadium in the divisional round and won, 28-21, ending the Patriots season.
But this Patriots team is much different from the 2010 team. They have more experience and, frankly, have a more balanced team. As long as the Patriots stick to their game plan, not making any uncharacteristic mistakes, they should have no problem with Houston and will be playing in two AFC Championship games in as many years.