The Patriots are 9-2 at Gillette Stadium in the playoffs, a mark of both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s excellence the past 12 years. They’ll each get an opportunity to put another notch on their belts with a win in their AFC divisional playoff matchup with the Houston Texans.
With a win, Belichick would move out of a tie for third place all-time in postseason victories as a coach with 18. Brady would break a tie with his boyhood hero, Joe Montana, for the most playoff victories by a quarterback. He has 16. But they’ll have to do so against a Houston team that is hell-bent on upsetting New England after an embarrassing 42-14 loss a month ago in the regular season.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub played poorly in his first game against the Patriots. He had a 68.8 quarterback rating after finishing 19 of 32 for 232 yards and an interception. But most troubling for the Texans, they were 4 of 14 on third down and 0 for 2 on fourth down. The Patriots’ defense was able to get stops when it mattered most, and Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defensed, 1 tackle for loss) dominated the line of scrimmage.
It didn’t help Houston in that first meeting that they went down 21-0 in the first half and 28-0 at the top of the third quarter. The Texans are looking to change all of that by working through some of the defensive miscues they brought upon themselves, but also by feeding running back Arian Foster. Foster had 140 yards rushing last week against the Cincinnati Bengals in the Texans’ 19-13 wild-card win. The Texans are 8-0 this season when Foster eclipses the 100-yard mark.
This time around, the Patriots are much healthier. Fifteen players were removed from the team’s injury report this week, leaving five who were listed as probable for today’s game. That includes tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed the first game and is likely to cause matchup problems for the Texans on defense.
The Texans will have backup tight end Garrett Graham and linebacker Brooks Reed available after missing the first game last month. Graham is a key player in the Texans’ passing game.
Here are the details for today’s game:
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m.
Records: Patriots 12-4; Texans 12-4, 1-0 postseason.
TV/Radio info: CBS (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Scott Zolak); Dial Global Sports radio (Ian Eagle, Trent Green, Lewis Johnson).
Projected starting lineups:
Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injuries for each team.
Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, RG Dan Connolly, RT Sebastian Vollmer, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon Lloyd, QB Tom Brady, RB Stevan Ridley, TE Aaron Hernandez.
Patriots defense: NT Vince Wilfork, DT Kyle Love, DE Chandler Jones, DE Rob Ninkovich, LB Dont’a Hightower, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Aqib Talib, CB Alfonzo Dennard, S Devin McCourty, S Steve Gregory.
Texans offense: WR Andre Johnson, LT Duane Brown, LG Wade Smith, C Chris Myers, RG Ben Jones, RT Derek Newton, TE Owen Daniels, WR Kevin Walter, QB Matt Schaub, FB James Casey, RB Arian Foster.
Texans defense: DE J.J. Watt, NT Shaun Cody, DE Antonio Smith, SLB Brooks Reed, MLB Bradie James, MLB Barrett Ruud, WLB Connor Barwin, LCB Kareem Jackson, RCB Johnathan Joseph, SS Danieal Manning, FS Glover Quinn.