Houston @ New England + $10k parlay bonus

Houston @ New England

Monday night is the game to catch this weekend as the Houston Texans travel to face the Patriots at the Gillette Stadium.

Houston have a two-game lead on the rest of the AFC, and are +160 to take the win and show they are a team to be taken seriously in the playoffs.

The New England Patriots, though, certainly aren’t ready to concede the conference they’ve represented in the Super Bowl five times in the last 11 years and are slight favourites at -110.

These powers each bring a six-game winning streak into Monday night’s showdown in Foxborough, where Houston will put its unblemished road record on the line against the AFC East champions.

The Texans (11-1) and Patriots (9-3) have met only three times before, once at New England, where Houston lost 40-7 in 2006, but a new rivalry could be about to develop, with more important match ups a real possibility in the coming playoffs.

In the franchise’s first postseason appearance last season, Houston came close to earning a date with the Patriots in the AFC title game, but lost to Baltimore in the divisional round. Now, with Matt Schaub healthy and star defensive end J.J. Watt helping his unit overcome a slew of injuries, the Texans have taken another step forward.

They’ve shown their mettle with six road wins in as many trips, including games at Denver and Chicago.

With four games still to play, they reached double-digit victories for the first time in franchise history with last Sunday’s 24-10 win at Tennessee. Schaub threw a pair of touchdown passes and Watt had two sacks along with his 14th and 15th passes defended, twice as many as any other defensive lineman.

The Patriots’ offence was relatively quiet last weekend, but the team still beat Miami 23-16 to clinch its ninth division title in 10 years. Brady threw his first interception in six games and the Patriots gained a season-low 321 yards, but their 26th-ranked defence held the Dolphins to 277.

Brady will have to cope with a Houston defence, that has blitzed more than any other side in the NFL, forcing errors. The two-time Super Bowl MVP will have to be at his best to find space in the Texans defence, but if the Pats can spread they field they should create opportunities.

The last time the Patriots faced Houston, Welker tore his left ACL and MCL in a 34-27 loss in Week 17 of the 2009 season.

That game meant little to a New England team that had already clinched the East. Monday’s contest is very significant if the Patriots hope to secure a first-round bye and perhaps home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

A win would pull them within one game of Houston while also giving them the tiebreaker, while a loss would all but lock up the No. 1 seed for the Texans, who would then have victories over all the other division leaders in the conference.

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NFL 2012 schedule: week 14

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