New England's offense has been its typically outstanding self over the second half of the year and their defense has held opponents to 20 points or fewer in five of their last six games. The Texans have a lot to overcome if they are to avenge their Week 14 loss to the Patriots.
New England did exactly what it needed to do - set a high-scoring pace early, thus nullifying Houston's dominant ground game. They scored touchdowns on three-consecutive drives in their eventual 42-14 win.
Houston was the AFC's top team for the majority of the year, but three losses in their final four games dropped them from No. 1 to No. 3, and they needed to beat Cincinnati for the right to earn a rematch against New England. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday.
The Texans defense crushed Cincinnati in the playoffs for the second-straight year, equaling Houston's deepest playoff run in franchise history. Getting past the divisional though will be just as tough this year as it was at Baltimore last year.
While the Texans will have quarterback Matt Schaub back for this one (he was out of last year's playoffs), the Patriots boast the league's top scoring offense and are showing signs of speeding up as the temperature drops. The Patriots scored 28 points or more in six of their last eight games, losing just one (at San Francisco, the NFC's No. 2 seed). Perhaps more impressively, the Patriots defense has allowed 20 points or fewer in five of their last six games, and enter the playoffs having won nine of their last 11 games.
Houston will need to lean on a defense that allowed 20.7 points a game (the same as New England) to withstand the Patriots' aerial assault, and try to get their running game going during the competitive parts of this game. If New England can score often and early again, it will be a long afternoon for the Texans.
On the other side of Sunday's slate, the NFC's No. 1 seed, Atlanta, will host the only wild card team to win a game in this year's playoffs, the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle got off to a slow start against Washington, falling behind 14-0, but they rattled off 24 unanswered points, coasting to a 24-14 win in Landover, Md.
The Seahawks have won seven in a row and eight of their last nine, and they face a Falcons team that hasn't won a playoff game since 2004 and has lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions in each of the last two seasons.
Atlanta's powerful passing attack features three great pass-catchers, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. Defense has been more of their issue, but it wasn't enough to keep them from winning an NFL-best 13 games in 2012.
The Seahawks and Falcons kick off at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.