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Texans vs. Patriots 2013, AFC Divisional playoffs game preview: Rested New England hosts tested Houston

The New England Patriots will take on the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Round on Sunday.

Jim Rogash

The New England Patriots are ready to host the Houston Texans after their bye week, and they're plenty confident. That confidence stems from the fact that they set the Texans on the losing streak that carried them into the playoffs, which guaranteed New England's spot as the top seed in the AFC.

They blew out the Texans, 42-14, at home in their last meeting. Tom Brady threw touchdown passes on the first three drives and finished with 296 yards and four touchdowns. That was without tight end Rob Gronkowski, which was huge leading into that game.

Usually, when you see a team score 42 points, it's hard to expect them to do the same thing again. But for the Patriots, it's certainly a possibility. They're averaging 34.8 points per game, the highest in the NFL, and look better than ever.

Houston lost three of its final four games heading into the playoffs, squandering the top seed in the AFC. The team will now have to play on the road again. It's going to be a tough one for them, but they feel they have what it takes to slow the Patriots down offensively.

What it will come down to is the pass rush. They produced 44 sacks, good for the fifth-highest total in the NFL, and will need to get Brady in an uncomfortable position to win. Games rarely come down to such a simple aspect, but it really is the start and the end to stopping the Patriots.

The Texans will personify the debate on whether or not its good to play an extra playoff game. New England has a week of rest, while the Texans managed to brush off the terrible end to their season with a dominating performance against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Will the Texans come out looking for blood, high on their win, or will the Patriots cruise to victory on the back of a week of rest and healing? That's just one aspect of this game that's so intriguing.