Houston's 19-13 win over Cincinnati on Saturday in the wild-card round of the playoffs can be seen as a positive for the Patriots on two fronts: It gives them an extra day to prepare for the Texans because they now know their opponent, and it brings a team that New England has already dominated this season back to Gillette Stadium.
In a conference call Sunday afternoon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke highly of Houston's win against the Bengals, and dismissed any notion that the 42-14 win over the Texans on Dec. 10 will mean anything the second time around.
In fact, Belichick was asked if the situation two years ago can be applied. In 2010, the Patriots thrashed the Jets late in the regular season, 45-3. Then in the playoffs, the Jets turned the tables and eliminated the Patriots, winning 28-21 at Gillette.
"I think there’s certainly a lesson there about the game that we play now doesn’t have much to do with the game we played before," Belichick said. "We’ve talked about that many, many times here, before and after the 2010 season."
Belichick was also asked -- and spoke highly of -- Houston's two biggest stars, defensive end J.J. Watt and running back Arian Foster. Watt and the Texans' defense held the Bengals without a touchdown, while Foster ran for 140 yards, the third time in three playoff games he's gone over 100, the only time in NFL history that has happened.
On Watt: "Watt's a big focal point on that defense, but you can't ignore the other guys. He's made more big plays than probably anybody has defensively this year in the league."
On Foster: "The running game controls the game for them, it sets up their play-action passes, puts them in a lot of third-and-medium, third-and-short situations. There's no question he's a key guy for Houston and their offense, but his production also complements the other players, as well. We'll definitely have to do a good job on him."