But as a sign that nobody should ever underestimate Bill Belichick, the Patriots have attained the NFL’s best record at 14-2. This is all the more impressive when you consider that New England plays in a tough division, and Rob Gronkowski went down with a season-ending injury.
The Houston Texans (10-7) made it this far by topping the AFC South, then winning a home playoff game against the Derek Carr-less Oakland Raiders. Houston shut down rookie QB Connor Cook for most of the game in their 27-14 triumph.
Unfortunately for Houston, Tom Brady is not Connor Cook, and they’ll no longer be playing at NRG Stadium.
Not surprisingly, New England is one of the biggest playoff betting favorites ever with a +15 line at GTBets.eu.
Is there any hope for Houston to win this game? Or can they at least cover their -15 spread? Find out as we look at the line, then discuss both teams.
GTBets Line for Patriots (13-3 ATS) vs. Texans (6-9-1 ATS)
Jan 14 (Sat) @ 8:15pm EST
Houston +15 (-106); +950
New England -15 (-114); -1500
Why Houston (+15) Will Win, or at least the Cover Spread
A former Belichick assistant, coach Bill O’Brien has helped lead the Texans back to relevancy. And they grabbed their third-ever postseason victory over Oakland last weekend. But they’ve never won a road playoff game, which begs the question of how they’re going to keep this contest close.
Defense is the answer, given that Houston led the league in yardage allowed (301.3 YPG). They did so primarily with an elite pass rush and secondary that held opposing quarterbacks to just 201.6 passing YPG. They also showed some balance by holding opponents to 99.7 rushing YPG (12th in NFL).
The Texans weren’t so impressive in the points department, allowing 20.6 per game (11th). But much of this can be attributed to an ineffective offense that gave opponents short field position.
The key will be $72-million man Brock Osweiler, who was benched towards the end of the regular season. But he reclaimed his role and played excellent against Oakland, going 14-15 for 168 yards and a touchdown. If Owseiler can play anything like this against New England, they actually have a chance to win.
But again, everything related to Houston’s chances goes back to their defense. They forced Cook into three interceptions last Saturday, and held the Raiders to two third-down conversions.
Nobody’s expecting them to shut down New England like this. But players like Jadaveon Clowney (6 sacks), Bernardrick McKinney (129 tackles), and Quintin Demps (6 interceptions) and have really stepped up in the absence of All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt. This unit has the potential to slow down the Patriots, especially if they can force a couple of turnovers.
Why New England (-15) Will Win
Aside from their 27-0 victory over Houston in Week 3, New England has the numbers working in their favor. This team is 16-1 in home playoff games when Tom Brady starts, including five wins in a row.
And Brady hasn’t lost a step, throwing for 3,554 yards, 28 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and a 67.4% completion rate — all good for a 112.4 passer rating. Thanks to Brady’s prowess, New England finished fourth in yardage (386.3) and third in points per game (27.6).
The Patriots also had the seventh-best rushing attack (117.0) in the NFL. LeGarrette Blount led the team with a career-high 1,161 rushing yards and a league-leading 18 touchdowns. The 18 rushing TDs is the most by a running back since Adrian Peterson notched the same mark in 2009.
While the Patriots aren’t known for big-name stars on defense, they did rank eighth in the league in yardage allowed (326.4). This was anchored by holding opponents to just 88.6 rushing yards per game. They also led the NFL in points allowed, giving up just 15.6 PPG.
Based on what we’ve discussed, it’s no wonder why New England is expected to win so easily.
Final Prediction on Patriots vs. Texans
The Texans are clearly the weakest division champion in the playoffs in our eyes. Without the injury to Carr, we also don’t see them even being in this game. They have too much inconsistency at quarterback, and their run game, while serviceable, can’t carry the team to victory.
While Houston’s defense is certainly talented, they don’t force many turnovers (17 on the year). Given that Brady has only thrown two picks on the season, we don’t see the Texans forcing enough Patriots’ mistakes to win.
Houston may hang in this game for a few series, but expect New England to be coasting to victory early in the fourth quarter, or even sooner.
Final Score Prediction: New England wins 31-13
It can’t be understated how good the Patriots have been against the spread, going 13-3. This alone makes us think that they can win big enough to cover the massive spread they’re facing.