As if conditions in Gillette Stadium won’t be harsh enough for the visiting
The Patriots allowed four opponents to score 20 or more points in their first nine games and gave up a season high in a 31-24 home loss to Seattle on Nov. 13. Only one opponent has scored 20 or more points during New England's seven-game win streak.
The Patriots went three weeks in the middle of the season without forcing a turnover; 14 of their 23 total takeaways have come in their last six games.
New England applies heavy pressure from the edge — the team has 34 sacks, led by defensive ends Trey Flowers (seven),
The Patriots will mix coverage schemes and blitzes to confuse Houston quarterback
"They're obviously a team that lines up in different fronts," Houston Coach Bill O'Brien said. "You have a bunch of really tough, hard-nosed players that are very well coached, so their scheme presents a problem too."
The Texans are no slouches on defense. They allowed an NFL-low 301.3 total yards and 17 first downs a game this season, and their 201.6 yards passing allowed a game was the second best in the league.
But the Texans couldn't slow a Tom Brady-less offense in a 27-0 loss to New England on Sept. 22, so few give them much of a chance with Brady — who served a four-game "Deflategate" suspension to start the season — under center.
Third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett started against Houston.
Brady has 22 career playoff wins, most for a quarterback in NFL history, and is the postseason leader in completions (738), attempts (1,183), passing yards (7,957) and touchdown passes (56).
"It's a great opportunity going against in my opinion the greatest quarterback of all time," Houston cornerback A.J. Bouye said. "You've got to be prepared, at your best … he has great weapons around him."
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which are for the season (league rank in parentheses):
Category | Houston | New England
Points scored | 17.4 (T28) | 27.6 (3)
Points allowed | 20.5 (11) | 15.6 (1)
Pass offense | 198.5 (29) | 269.3 (4)
Rush offense | 116.2 (8) | 117.0 (7)
Pass defense | 201.6 (2) | 237.9 (12)
Rush defense | 99.7 (12) | 88.6 (T3)
Sacks | 32 (T21) | 34 (T16)
Penalty yards | 54.2 (13) | 51.2 (4)
Turnovers | -7 (T26) | +12 (3)
Sam Farmer's pick
The Patriots are rested, and have had an extra week to prepare. The Texans defense will keep them in it for a while, but Houston's offense will give it back too many times.
PATRIOTS 27, TEXANS 17