The New England Patriots meet the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium tonight and both teams have something to play for. Which is nothing new to these relatively new rivals. Bill Belichick has led Tom Brady into action against the Texans eight times since 2012, and the Patriots have won all eight games straight-up and covered the point spread six times.
Is that reason enough to take the Patriots tonight and lay the field goal spread?
The Patriots won the prior eight games for a number of influential reasons that did not assume New England would come out on top. They did win, behind Brady, all eight games because they were in a position to do so. Tonight, they are not in such a spot.
It is the Texans, who are not as good as New England, but motivated tonight to play their best to survive against a team they haven’t beaten since the 17th week of the 2009 season. Ironically, the only game the Patriots lost in this series since Tom Brady showed up 19 years ago, they won on the point spread. It was a meaningless game for New England as they headed into the postseason, and they were getting 8 points on the spread, enough to cover for the Patriots in a seven point loss, 34-27.
In other words, for the Texans to win in this series, they have to have special circumstances, and since Brady has been a pro, the Texans have not beaten both the Patriots and point spread on the same day in eleven tries.
The history between these two teams doesn’t enhance my enthusiasm for a Texans wager tonight.
But the situation, that finds New England jockeying for playoff position while for all practical purposes already having locked up the AFC East Division for an eleventh consecutive season, would seem to favor the home team tonight. The Texans are in a dog fight in the AFC South Division, currently one-half game ahead of second place Tennessee, who won their seventh game of the season earlier today at Indianapolis.
While with a normal team, the need to stay in first place would far outweigh the clinched division and playing to elevate their playoff position, but this is the New England Patriots. This is a team that is always in the hunt for home field advantage, and their ability to win that is a lot more likely than other teams winning their division.
In other words, the Patriots can win this because they know how too.
They shouldn’t, based on the factors feeding into this contest. The fact that Houston has never downed the Patriots in a game that counted since Belichick and Brady combined efforts, does not erase the fact that all the games that preceded this meeting create a path for a Texans triumph tonight.
For all the right reasons I would be on Houston tonight, but for the fact that any reason to buck the Patriots seems to be highly suspect when New England is playing Houston.
I fully expect a highly entertaining game, which will not include a vested interest in the outcome.