With their bid for a perfect season now ancient history, the New England Patriots will attempt to avoid their first three-game losing streak in 13 years when they visit the resurgent Houston Texans on Sunday night. A rash of injuries finally appeared to catch up to the Patriots in a 35-28 home loss to Philadelphia last week, marking their first back-to-back defeats since September 2012.
“We’d love to have everybody healthy,” New England quarterback Tom Brady said. “I think everybody would love that. It’s just not the reality at this point.” The two-game skid has dropped the Patriots to the No. 3 seed in the AFC behind Cincinnati and Denver. Meanwhile, the Texans have fought back from a 1-4 start to move into a tie with Indianapolis atop the AFC South despite last week’s 30-21 loss at Buffalo. Standout defensive end J.J. Watt broke his hand in practice Wednesday but said he will play Sunday.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE HISTORY: The Patriots opened as 3.5-point road favorites, were bet down to -3, before getting back up to the opening number. The total has bounced back and forth between the current number of 44.5 and the opening number of 45.
Patriots – OL M. Cannon (probable Sunday, toe), DE C. Jones (probable Sunday, abdominal), DB D. McCourty (probable Sunday, shoulder), TE M. WIlliams (Probable Sunday, knee), TE R. Gronkowski (questionable Sunday, knee), OL J. Kline (questionable Sunday, shoulder), S P. Chung (questionable Sunday, foot), TE S. Chandler (questionable Sunday, knee), WR D. Amendola (questionable Sunday, knee), DB J. Coleman (questionable Sunday, hand), LB D. Hightower (questionable Sunday, knee), DL D. Easley (questionable Sunday, ankle), WR M. Slater (questionable Sunday, stinger), J. Edelman (out indefinitely, foot).
Texans – B. Brooks (probable Sunday, Illness), WR C. Shorts (probable Sunday, hamsting), RB A. Blue (probable Sunday, back), T D. Brown (probable Sunday, knee), LB M. Bullough (probable Sunday, shoulder), LB J. Clowney (probable Sunday, hamstring), DT C. Covington (probable Sunday, knee), DB K. Jackson (probable Sunday, ankle), DB C. James (probable Sunday, calf), C B. Jones (probable Sunday, hip), J. Joseph (probable Sunday, knee), LB, W. Mercilus (probable Sunday, back), T D. Newton (probable Sunday, elbow), RB C. Polk (probable Sunday, knee), WR D. Hopkins (probable Sunday, hamstring), DE J. Watt (probable Sunday, hand).
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Patriots (-4) – Texans (0) + home field (-3) = Texans +1
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “Split decision here as the public like the Pats and the smart bettors are backing the Texans. Both sides of the spectrum like the over as we have around 70 percent of our take on that side, forcing an adjustment up to 45.5. We haven’t moved off the spread open of New England -3 but I expect the juice to cascade and it may mean a move to -3.5.” – John Lester of BookMaker.
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “The Pats are in pointspread freefall right now, notching only two ATS covers since their post-bye Week 5 blowout win at Dallas, including four straight spread losses. Meanwhile, the Texans have used 18 different offensive line combinations this season, and starting guard Brandon Brooks might not be able to suit up this Sunday, sidelined by a mysterious illness.” – Covers Expert Teddy Covers.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (10-2, 5-5-2 ATS, 7-5 O/U): Star tight end Rob Gronkowski, who suffered a knee injury in an overtime loss at Denver on Nov. 29, practiced on a limited basis Thursday for the first time since he was hurt but his status is unclear for the Texans. Without Gronkowski and slot receiver Julian Edelman unavailable, Brady completed only 51.8 percent of his passes and had his first multiple-interception game of the season, including a 99-yard return for a touchdown in the loss to the Eagles. New England has blown 14-0 leads in consecutive weeks, although Philadelphia scored three TDs via defense and special teams.
ABOUT THE TEXANS (6-6, 6-6 ATS, 7-4-1 O/U): After surrendering a total of 35 points during a perfect 4-0 November, including six on three occasions, Houston was unable to slow Buffalo last week in permitting 187 yards rushing. Quarterback Brian Hoyer tossed three scoring passes last week – the sixth time in seven games he has multiple touchdown passes – and has an emerging superstar in DeAndre Hopkins, who has 10 touchdown receptions and is third in the league with 1,169 yards. Watt has an NFL-best 13.5 sacks for the Texans, who rank third in the league by allowing an average of 218.3 yards passing per game.
* Over is 6-0 in the last six meetings.
* Home team is 5-0-1 ATS in the last six meetings.
* Over is 5-1 in the Patriots last six road games.
* Texans are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public loves the Patriots in this Sunday night showdown, with 70 percent of wagers backing New England. In the totals market, 65 percent of wagers are on the over.