Houston Texans at New England Patriots (-5.5, 52)
The Houston Texans have already wrapped up a playoff berth and are two games clear of the pack in the race for the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Still, despite the Texans' 11-1 record heading into Monday night's high-profile matchup at the New England Patriots, there is skepticism regarding Houston's legitimacy as a Super Bowl contender. Many of the doubts were spawned from another marquee night matchup, when the Texans were waylaid at home by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers 42-24.
New England clinched the AFC East title last week and, like Houston, carries a six-game winning streak into Monday's matchup. The Patriots are battling division leaders Baltimore and Denver in the race for a first-round bye but could vault into the mix for the No. 1 seed by beating the Texans, who are 6-0 on the road.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE: Patriots -5.5, O/U 52
WEATHER: Forecasts are calling for temperatures in the high-40s with a 90 percent of rain. Winds will blow out of the SW at 6 mph.
ABOUT THE TEXANS (11-1): Houston can all but clinch the top seed with a victory, having already defeated division leaders Denver and Baltimore. The Texans, who will be playing their third straight road game, finally got their defense straightened out in last week's 24-10 win at Tennessee after surrendering a total of 68 points in the previous two games - both of which went to overtime. Quarterback Matt Schaub has won 15 of his last 16 starts and directs a balanced offense featuring an elite wide receiver in Andre Johnson and a powerful running game led by Arian Foster, who is 98 yards shy of his third straight 1,200-yard season. DE J.J. Watt has 16.5 sacks and leads a unit that yields an average of 18.4 points. Houston's injury-riddled secondary will be tested by the league's best offense.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (9-3): New England tops the league in scoring at 35.8 points (more than six better than runner-up Houston) but had its second-lowest offensive output in last week's 23-16 win in Miami. Tom Brady was sacked four times and threw only his fourth interception but became the first quarterback in league history to win 10 division titles. Brady, who celebrated the birth of a baby daughter Wednesday, has thrown for 15 touchdowns and one pick during the winning streak. Wes Walker had 12 receptions against Miami and will continue to see a heavy workload with fellow wideout Julian Edelman joining star tight end Rob Gronkowski on the sidelines with a season-ending foot injury. New England's pass defense has improved markedly since the acquisition of CB Aqib Talib from Tampa Bay.
* Texans are 9-1-1 ATS in their last 11 vs. a team with a winning record.
* Texans are 0-4 ATS in their last four Monday games.
* Patriots are 4-0 ATS in their last four Monday games.
* Under is 5-1 in Texans’ last six December games.
1. The Patriots have won 12 straight games in December and are 10-1 in their last 11 Monday night games.
2. Houston, which is averaging 33.7 points in its last three games, can clinch the AFC South title with a win and a loss or tie by Indianapolis.
3. Brady has thrown a TD pass in 44 consecutive games, the third-longest streak in league history.