If this season is like your favorite TV show, these next two weeks are like ratings sweep shows. It’s when KITT met Goliath, or Sideshow Bob made his annual appearance. You love the show, even with all its inadequacies, but this, this is the business.
I’m a little surprised about how many, ahem, “experts” are tossing their weight toward the Patriots tonight. That’s not an argument, but it does come with a tinge of anxiousness. Dan Shaughnessy completely dismisses the Texans. I do not.
Nor should you.
This week’s picks:
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 27, Texans 23. “Half of the Homestand From Hell (Niners travel to Foxboro next week). You wondered a couple of weeks ago why I had the Patriots winning the second seed in the AFC, behind Houston. This is why. Baltimore's offense continues to run at 35 mph while the Patriots have a Maserati, and playing at home is going to help them against the best the NFL has to offer the next two weeks. In this one, I say Aqib Talib on Houston's downfield weapons -- including Andre Johnson -- makes the risky trade for him seem very worthwhile.”
ESPN.com staff: Eight out of 12 pick the Pats.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports.com: Patriots 31, Texans 24. “This is a game to show the elite team in the AFC. The Texans have had all kinds of problems against good passing teams. I think they do again against Tom Brady. Look for the Patriots to stake their claim as the AFC's best as Brady has a huge game.”
CBS Sports.com staff: Six out of eight pick the Patriots.
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 34, Texans 24. “The Pats make their move toward the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff field. It’s a great game on paper, but it’s got the potential to be a snooze-fest.”
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 28, Texans 14. “Now this is a great Monday Night Football game. If the Texans win, the race for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs is pretty much over. But I think the Patriots are a better football team right now, and they’re going to take this one and make a big statement that they’re the favorites to get to the Super Bowl out of the AFC, even if they have to win a rematch in Houston in January to get there.”
USA Today staff: Seven out of eight pick the Pats.
Yahoo! sports staff: Two of three go with New England.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports.com: Patriots 27, Texans 20. “The Patriots didn’t put up 49 or 59 points like they did the previous two weeks, but they won in convincing fashion over the Dolphins last weekend. They haven’t been truly tested in a football game since the Buffalo game four weeks ago. Houston will give them everything they’ve got, but with this game being played in New England, I’m going with Brady and the Patriots. Not by much, but by enough to get the “Not so fast” message through to Wade Phillips’ Bulls on Parade.”
It says here: Patriots 35, Texans 17. Next up, top seed. (OK, we dismissed them.)