FOXBOROUGH — Huge games in December — or January and February, for that matter — are nothing new for the New England Patriots.
For the Houston Texans, they are rare.
The Monday night matchup should be quite a show.
“It’s the biggest game in the history of this franchise,” Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson said. “As long as we keep winning, every game is going to be bigger.”
They each hold playoff reservations in the AFC. They’re the highest scoring teams in the NFL. Both have six-game winning streaks.
The implications for the postseason add even more luster — the winner moving a step closer to a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
The Patriots have played many bigger games and are downplaying its significance. They’ve won three Super Bowls, although the last was for the 2004 season, while the Texans reached the playoffs last season for the first time since they began playing in 2002.
“Once we get in December, games become more and more important (but) we also have to realize this game doesn’t decide anything” about the playoffs, Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “A lot can happen (before) then. Whoever wins this game doesn’t guarantee anything later in the season.”
Houston (11-1) has clinched a playoff berth and can take the AFC South with a win and a loss or tie by Indianapolis (8-4), or with a tie and an Indianapolis loss. Two of the Texans’ last three games are against the Colts.
New England (9-3) locked up first place in the AFC East last Sunday. The top two seeded teams will get a week off to rest and prepare for their first postseason game before their own fans.
But the value of playing at home is debatable: Over the past five seasons, teams are 29-21 at home in the postseason.