A preview of the AFC divisional playoff matchup between the Houston Texans and New England Patriots
When: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Line: Patriots favored by 16
Injuries: Texans S Quintin Demps (hamstring) and LB John Simon (chest) are questionable after being limited all week. Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount returned to practice Friday after missing two days with an illness. WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee) is questionable.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
1. History lesson: The Texans have never won in the divisional round and were blown out at New England in their most recent appearance four years ago.
The Patriots haven't failed to reach the AFC Championship Game in the last five postseasons and are 10-2 in the divisional round under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
These teams have met each of the past two seasons with New England sweeping to a 2-0 record by a combined score of 54-6. Houston's coaching staff — Bill O'Brien, Romeo Crennel and Mike Vrabel are all intimately familiar with Belichick and Co. — failed to find an effective game plan in a 27-0 Week 3 loss that included three turnovers and a typically poor performance from QB Brock Osweiler (24-for-41, 196 yards, INT).
2. Clown question: Former Patriots stalwart Vince Wilfork has said the best player on Houston's top-ranked defense is DE Jadeveon Clowney, and Wilfork was including J.J. Watt in his assessment.
Clowney showed why in the wild-card round, collecting an interception and two batted passes while applying steady pressure on the pocket.
Tom Brady, who was suspended for the teams' September meeting, has to be wary of the No. 1 overall draft pick from the 2014 draft, not to mention several other Houston defenders — OLB Whitney Mercilus, ILB Benardrick McKinney and CB A.J. Bouye to name a few — who would probably receive far more acclaim on a higher-profile team. However Brady should have more targets to choose from with WR Danny Amendola coming back from an ankle injury, and recently acquired WR Michael Floyd proving he's ready to play a larger role.
3. Brock and roll: The season-long struggles Osweiler experienced became readily apparent in Week 3, his first loss as Houston's starter.
He's coming off one of his most efficient performances in the wild-card win and appeared to trust his eyes more while also making a more concerted effort to feed WR DeAndre Hopkins.
But the Texans can bank on Belichick trying to eliminate Hopkins and RB Lamar Miller (107 total yards in Week 3) as options while making Osweiler look for far less-reliable weapons.
Hoping rookie WR Will Fuller or TEs C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin can punish the league's stingiest scoring defense is wishful thinking.
Osweiler will have to find a way to get Hopkins or Miller heavily involved and probably hope for a few takeaways from his defense or a splash play or two on special teams for the Texans to have a prayer.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis