The Houston Texans were comfortably sailing along atop the AFC before meeting the New England Patriots last month. A lopsided setback led to two more losses in their final three games. The AFC South-champion Texans rebounded with a 19-13 triumph over sixth-seeded Cincinnati in last week's wild-card match, setting up a return date on Sunday with Tom Brady and the second-seeded Patriots in Foxboro, Mass.
Houston coach Gary Kubiak will need to have a better plan for Brady, who dissected his defense for 296 yards and four touchdowns on a national stage as New England cruised to a 42-14 victory on Dec. 10. Should the AFC East-champion Patriots emerge victorious on Sunday, Brady will surpass boyhood idol Joe Montana for the most postseason wins (17) by a starting quarterback. Brady is 10-2 at home during the postseason, but just 6-6 in his last 12 overall starts in the playoffs.
TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -10, O/U 47.5
ABOUT THE TEXANS (13-4): Arian Foster scored the game's lone touchdown last week and compiled 174 total yards from scrimmage (140 rushing, 34 receiving). Foster's dual threat was rendered nearly obsolete after the Patriots breezed to an early 21-0 lead. The electric runner was held to 46 yards on the ground. Houston would be wise to feed Foster the ball on Sunday; the Texans are 8-0 when he rushes for at least 100 yards.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (12-4): Brady isn't shy about distributing the ball as he guides the league's highest-scoring team. Wes Welker, who had 118 catches for 1,354 yards this season, was held to just three receptions in the teams' earlier meeting. Rob Gronkowski, who was a spectator against the Texans earlier this season, led the Patriots with 11 touchdowns. Fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez, who had two scores versus Houston, and wideout Brandon Lloyd could be the wild cards in the high-octane attack.
1. New England led the NFL with a plus-24 turnover differential. Houston was second in the AFC with a plus-12 margin.
2. Houston stud WR Andre Johnson mustered nearly 100 yards per contest this season, and fell just five yards shy of that average on eight catches versus the Patriots in Week 14.
3. New England coach Bill Belichick needs one more postseason win to move past Joe Gibbs (17) for third place on the NFL's all-time list. Tom Landry recorded 20 victories while Don Shula is second with 19.
Patriots 31, Texans 20