When the Patriots (10-1) travel to face the Texans (7-4) on “Sunday Night Football” in the penultimate game of Week 13 (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC), it will be their second of three first-place conference matchups.
AFC East-leading New England lost on the road already at AFC North-leading Baltimore in Week 9 and hosts AFC West-leading Kansas City in Week 14. The Patriots need to keep winning to keep the top seed over the Ravens, and also hold off the upstart Bills (9-3) in the division race. The Texans have little breathing room ahead of the Colts (6-5) and Titans (6-5) in their division.
Here’s how we see the latest matchup between Bill Belichick and Bill O’Brien’s teams playing out:
Betting odds for ‘Sunday Night Football’
- Spread: Patriots (-3.5)
- Point total: 46.5
- Odds: Patriots +105, Texans -115
The Patriots have been hanging around as about field-goal favorites since they edged the Cowboys in Week 12 and the Texans survived the Colts. They are battling some illnesses as a team, but are otherwise mostly physically healthy for the matchup. The Texans are well rested coming off a Thursday game.
Patriots vs. Texans all-time series
The Patriots have dominated with a 10-1 advantage since the Texans entered the league in 2002. The Texans’ only win against the Patriots came in a meaningless January game during the 2010 season. The Patriots won by 27 and 21 points in ’15 and ’16. They’ve won the last two meetings, in ’17 and ’18, by three and seven points, respectively.
Three trends to know
— 61 percent of spread bettors are with the Patriots to take the game, while taking care of the small number. Fifty-two percent of moneyline bettors also like the Patriots.
— With the over/under being a trickier number given the Patriots’ defensive prowess and offensive limitations, 54 percent of bettors like the game to go over. Only three of 11 Patriots games have gone over. Only four of 11 Texans games have gone over.
— The Patriots have gone 7-4 against the spread this season and are 5-2 in the past seven games, but they are only 1-2 in the past three games.
MORE: How to watch Pats-Texans
Three things to watch
Brady vs. the Texans’ secondary
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t had the greatest season, hurt more by his team’s limited running game and inability to stretch the field. But he has grinded through with high passing volume and timely throws in clutch situations, as per usual. This could really turn into a get-well game for him throwing against the Texans’ weak cornerbacks and coverage linebackers.
Watson vs. the Patriots’ secondary
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson does a great job to extend plays with his legs and buy time for him to deliver the deep ball to receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. The Patriots are deep in their defensive backfield and are very good at stopping big plays and getting off the field on third down. He’ll need to be on point off-script for Houston to have a chance.
Belichick vs. O’Brien
Belichick has outsmarted his former offensive coordinator consistently. O’Brien is joined on his staff by former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. The Patriots know what to expect from what the Texans do, and tend to stay three steps ahead in these matchups.
Stat that matters
The Patriots do not give up big pass plays, entering Week 13 giving up on average only 158.0 yards passing per game. They have given up only four passing touchdowns all season and have 20 interceptions and 37 sacks to their credit.
Patriots vs. Texans prediction
The Patriots’ defense will turn in another strong performance containing Watson’s wideouts and getting to him often with their pass rush. Brady will play well against a bad Texans pass defense with plenty of help from the running game to facilitate his throws. New England scores more on offense than we’ve typically seen before.
Patriots 31, Texans 20