New England Patriots vs Houston Texans [PREVIEW]
Houston Texans at New England Patriots — 8:30 P.M.
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Spread: Patriots by 3.5
Forecast: Temperatures in the 40s with a 60 percent chance of rain.
Records: Patriots (9-3, AFC East 5-0); Texans (11-1, AFC South 4-0)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Jan. 3, 2010: Texans 34, Patriots 27; Dec. 17, 2006: Patriots 40, Texans 7. Series record: Patriots lead 2-1.
AFC South champion Houston are looking to move closer to clinching home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub will face a vulnerable Patriots pass defense that ranks 29th in the NFL. Quarterback Tom Brady is the key to the offense for AFC East champ New England. He'll face a Houston secondary weakened by injuries.
AFC sack leader J.J. Watt will look to pressure Brady and add to his NFL-record 15 pass deflections. To get ready the Pats used racquetball rackets in practice to simulate his ability to knock down passes.
The Texans have allowed an AFC-low 18.4 points per game, while New England has one of the league's top scoring offenses. The Pats are riding a 6 game win streak.
TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip) is again out for Monday's game. He is the only player out. 13 players are questionable, however DE Chandler Jones (ankle) and G Logan Mankins (ankle/calf), returned to practice this week, and are expected to play.
Houston has only allowed 15 sacks this season. The Patriots aren't going to find it easy to create pressure on QB Matt Schaub.