Bryan Altman

It took 256 regular season games, but we’ve finally whittled down the 32-team NFL field to just 12 teams that have rightfully earned their place in the 2016-17 NFL playoffs. After a disappointingly non-competitive Wild Card Weekend, we’re onto the divisional round, which is oftentimes the best weekend of football of the year. As we did for round one, we’ll be breaking down each game right here, with a special emphasis on the most important things, like who might win, why, and most importantly, by how many points. All lines and spreads are courtesy of Westgate Sportsbook.  

When the Patriots and the Texans met back in Week 3, it was the Patriots who were without their franchise cornerstone, not the Texans. These two teams traded fortunes shortly thereafter, and as a result, JJ Watt will be pacing the sidelines in street clothes while Tom Brady does his best to pick apart the Texans’ defense Watt usually presides over.

In that Week 3 matchup, it was Jacoby Brissett who helped New England dispatch Houston by a final of 27-0, a piece of history that certainly doesn’t bode well for the Texans’ chances in this rematch in Foxboro.

Oddsmakers have certainly indicated that they don’t like the Texans’ chances and have set the opening line at -16 for the game, the fourth highest spread in NFL playoff history.

First highest was the spread for Super Bowl XXVII, when the 49ers were 19-point favorites over the San Diego Chargers. They won 49-26.

Second highest, you ask?

Baltimore Colts, 18-point favorites over Joe Namath and the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. We all know how that one ended, so hey, ya never know, Texans fans.

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots – Sat. Jan. 15, 8:15 p.m. ET

Spread: Patriots -16

Total: 45

Spread: On Tuesday, Bill Belichick met with the media and said it’s a “big challenge” for the Patriots to compete with the Texans, which we all scoffed at ever so slightly. No disrespect to the Texans, of course, but this would be the upset of the century if the Texans can pull it off.

I mean, last time these teams met it was rookie third-stringer Jacoby Brissett at quarterback for New England and the Texans didn’t even come close to beating the Patriots, so how is it possible this time around with arguably the greatest of all time at the helm?

For starters, the Texans’ defense — to a man — has to play the best it’s ever played. Brock Osweiler needs to do his part and not turn the ball over, but if you’re counting on him and the stagnant Texans offense to score more than 20 points against the Patriots you’re going to be in for a rude awakening on Saturday night.

The Texans ranked 29th in the league in yards per game and ranked 28th in points per game with just 17.4 per game, so the defense will have to keep the Patriots’ offense off the field and out of the end zone to have a chance here.

Luckily for the Texans, that’s something that unit has done all year for the most part. The Texans’ offense actually ranks fourth in time of possession per game, averaging 31:34 per game — higher even than the Patriots, who clock in at sixth place. They’ll need to control the clock and keep Brady off the field as long as possible to stay in this one.

Tom Brady told the media “there is nothing easy” about the Texans’ defense, and he’s not lying. They were a Top 5 defense against the pass and fell just outside the Top 10 (12th) against the run, which makes them formidable to be sure.

But formidable won’t get it done against the Patriots, in the playoffs, in New England. They’ll need to be all-time great. I think that’s too much to ask of a unit that’s bailed out their offense time and time again this year. Patriots -16

Total: Is there a part of me that thinks things could get out of hand and the Patriots could put up 45 points themselves? Yup. But, I think it’s far more likely that the Texans’ defense keeps things remotely competitive while the Texans struggle to put any points up at all. Under 45

Final: Houston Texans 9, New England Patriots 31