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Houston at New England

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Nothing lasts forever, especially in the National Football League. But here we are yet again in January with the New England Patriots gunning for another trip to the Super Bowl.

Bill Belichick’s team will play host to Houston on Sunday afternoon in the AFC semifinals. As of Saturday afternoon, most betting shops had the Patriots installed as 9 ½-point favorites with a total of 49. Gamblers can take the Texans to win outright for a generous plus-350 return (risk $100 to win $350).

New England (12-4 straight up, 9-7 against the spread) closed out the regular season with a 28-0 win over Miami as an 11 ½-point home ‘chalk.’ Tom Brady threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, while Stevan Ridley rushed for 74 yards and a pair of scores.

Brady enjoyed another spectacular season. The Michigan product threw for 4,827 yards with a 34/8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Brady also had four rushing touchdowns.

New England led the NFL in total offense and scoring, averaging 34.8 points per game. Ridley had a breakout year, rushing for 1,263 yards and 12 TDs while averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

Wes Welker had another stellar campaign, hauling in 118 catches for 1,354 yards and six TDs. Despite missing five games with a broken forearm, TE Rob Gronkowski produced 55 receptions for 790 yards and 11 TDs. Aaron Hernandez missed six games but still had 51 grabs for 483 yards and five TDs.

Houston (13-4 SU, 10-7 ATS) raced out to an 11-1 record before going into Foxboro for Monday Night Football in Week 14. The Texans got humbled in a 42-14 blowout loss to the Patriots, who hooked up their backers as 5 ½-point home favorites. The 56 combined points went ‘over’ the 50 ½-point total.

Brady connected on 21-of-35 throws for 296 yards and four TDs without a turnover. Hernandez had eight catches for 58 yards and two TDs.

Matt Schaub completed 19-of-32 passes for 239 yards and one interception. Arian Foster was unable to get going, especially after the Texans were forced into catch-up mode early. Foster rushed for only 46 yards on 15 carries, scoring on a one-yard plunge midway through the third quarter.

Following the loss to New England, Houston bounced back to capture a 29-17 home win over Indianapolis. Therefore, the Texans needed just one more victory in their last two games to get a bye in the playoffs. But they couldn’t get it done.

Minnesota came to H-Town and dealt out a 23-6 beatdown behind a monster performance from Adrian Peterson. Next, Houston dropped a 28-16 decision to the Colts as 6 ½-point road ‘chalk.’

Gary Kubiak’s team came into the postseason slumping badly, but it was able to advance by clipping the Bengals 19-13 last Saturday. The Texans covered the number as four-point home favorites, while the 32 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 42-point tally.

Foster was the catalyst, rushing 32 times for 140 yards and one touchdown. He also had eight catches for 34 yards. Schaub completed 29-of-38 passes for 262 yards, but he didn’t have any TD passes and threw a pick-six.

Schaub had a solid season but was ineffective down the stretch. In fact, the University of Virginia product has not thrown a TD pass in three straight games. In Houston’s last five contests, Schaub has only one TD pass compared to four interceptions.

During the regular season, Schaub threw for 4,008 yards with a 22/12 TD-INT ratio. Foster rushed for 1,424 yards and 15 TDs while averaging 4.1 YPC.

Perennial Pro-Bowl WR Andre Johnson was finally able to stay healthy for the entire season and it showed with his numbers. Johnson made 112 receptions for 1,598 yards and four TDs.

Houston ranked seventh in the NFL in total defense and ninth in scoring defense, allowing only 20.7 PPG. Defensive end J.J. Watt is the leader of this unit. He had a monster year with 21 ½ sacks and 16 passes defended.

Houston was a road underdog twice, winning outright at Chicago and losing at New England. The Texans were 4-4 ATS on the road. They own a 17-21 spread record in 38 games as road ‘dogs during Kubiak’s seven-year tenure.

The ‘over’ is 11-5 overall for the Patriots, 6-2 in their home games. They saw the ‘over’ hit in nine consecutive games before the ‘under’ emerged in three of their last five outings.

The ‘under’ is 9-7 overall for the Texans, 5-3 in their eight road assignments.

CBS will provide television coverage at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.

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