It says here the Patriots should play to win this week in their matchup at the Houston Texans just like the Giants did in ’07. If anyone is borderline injury-wise, it would make sense to leave them out of the game. But besides that, it would make sense because there is a possible advantage to the third seed that could come into play if the Patriots lose and Cincinnati wins. Recent history suggest there is something to the momentum theory as well. Beyond that, the sound of 11-5 is better than 10-6. In addition, the game means something to not only the Patriots but their opponent in terms of who gets in and other teams. Unlike in ’05 when the Dolphins game was pretty much meaningless (aside from seeding).

It worked for the Giants as we all know what happened in 2007. So if it was me filling Bill Belichick’s decision making shoes, you’d see Tom Brady the entire game. And Randy Moss. And Wes Welker. And anyone else that was healthy and important. And you’d see a game plan designed to win. At 11-5, heading into a home playoff game with a win and clicking you’d have to view the Patriots as a dangerous team.

Will it play out that way? Will the Patriots play to win? We’ll find out Sunday at 1PM.

QB Matt Schaub (#8):

Schaub is a very big, strong-armed quarterback with great tools and an ability to move around the pocket. He is still prone to bouts of inaccuracy, but is a coming into his own as one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. He has had some problem with injuries in the past. Back in 2005, threw for 298 yards and 3 touchdowns with a 112.1 QB rating filling in for an injured Michael Vick against the Patriots, though the Patriots won 31-28. Largely on the strength of that performance, Houston traded for Schaub with results finally starting to payoff big this year. With the Patriots occasional struggles in the secondary, it’ll be interesting to see how they do with the productive Schaub.

RB Arian Foster (#37):

Foster is an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee who is starting due to injuries in the Texans’ backfield. He had his best game last week with 97 yards in a Houston win. It was somewhat of a surprise he wasn’t drafted after putting up over 3,000 yards in college and having a decent size/speed combination.

WR Andre Johnson (#80):

Possibly the best wide receiver in football and one of the most dangerous offensive weapons around. Johnson has it all, size, speed, great hands and strength. He can get deep behind a defensive back, but also take a short pass the distance many times with the awesome skills he has. For the second year in a row, Johnson is up over 1,500 yards receiving and had 9 touchdowns on the year. Stopping Johnson will be a key to how the Patriots’ defense performs Sunday.

DE Mario Williams (#90):

Williams was a controversial pick by the Texans at  #1 overall a few years back ahead of Reggie Bush. It has proven to be a wise decision. Williams is one of the more dominant defensive linemen in the league and a real chore to block one on one. He’s effective versus the run, but a monster to handle as a pass rusher. Still just 24 years old, Williams has had a slightly less effective season than the previous two, but still has 8 sacks on the year. You can be sure he’d like to get to double figures for the third year in a row. The Patriots will have their hands full handling him.

LB DeMeco Ryans (#59):

A tackling machine, the 6’1″ 250 lb. Ryans is now a regular amongst NFL defensive tackles leaders annually. Active and quick, he is a good football player who has been a leader for the Texans since his rookie year. Ryans was the predecessor to the Patriots’ Jerrod Mayo as NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Though the Texans rank somewhere around the middle of the pack in both passing and rushing defense, its not the fault of Ryans who usually is as active a playmaker as you’ll see from a middle linebacker.

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