With six straight victories and their fourth consecutive AFC East title already wrapped up, the New England Patriots are playing perhaps their best football of the season.
And a large chunk of their recent run has come without two of their top players.
So, imagine the big boost the Patriots will receive from having one of their best players on each side of the ball return for what is being billed as the game of the year.
After practicing in a limited capacity all week, starting left guard Logan Mankins and standout rookie right defensive end Chandler Jones are both listed as questionable for Monday night's much-hyped matchup against the first-place Houston Texans (11-1), a game with major playoff ramifications for both teams.
''Just got out there a little bit this week and tried to move around. We'll see where it goes from today,'' said Mankins, who injured his ankle in the second half of New England's victory over Buffalo on Nov. 11 and has missed the last three games. ''We wer...