9 a.m. ET: The Ravens stole the show in Denver on Saturday. Now the Patriots hold all the cards looking ahead to the AFC Championship Game.
Tom Brady, who threw four touchdowns against the Texans in their first meeting (a 42-14 New England win), will be looking to manhandle Houston’s secondary again, but he knows J.J. Watt and company aren’t willing to just lie down and take the beating.
The Patriots’ defense could also face some trouble against this potent Texans attack. Arian Foster, who was held to just 45 yards on the ground last time out, tore up the Bengals for 174 total yards last weekend, and the talented running back has all the intentions of more big runs inside Gillette Stadium. Vince Wilfork, Brandon Spikes and the rest of the Patriots’ front seven may have something to say about that, but it will be a major determining factor in this epic battle.
Foster’s success will dictate quarterback Matt Schaub’s ability to run effective play-action passes and increase wide receiver Andre Johnson’s chances of getting open down the field.
The X-factor for both sides will lie with the tight ends, though. Rob Gronkowski, who missed the first meeting with a broken forearm, is back and ready to contribute at 100 percent, while Owen Daniels has eyes for another big day similar to his nine-catch performance last Saturday.
And, thanks to the Broncos losing, the winner of this game will host the AFC Championship.
There are plenty of storylines to follow, but don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered.
Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m., but we’ll have all your news, notes and analysis on everything Patriots popping off right here all day long. So, keep it locked with the NESN.com live blog, and stay up to date on everything Patriots.
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