Long-suffering Texans fans (like myself) have dreamt of the day that the New England Patriots (9-3) would look forward to playing Houston on a national Monday Night Football stage. Only in our wildest dreams did we imagine the Texans would go into the game at 11-1 with a playoff spot clinched and postseason implications that could turn Super Bowl hope into reality.
Now that the Texans have proven to be serious contenders in the league, winning much-anticipated road games against Denver and Chicago and one in a rematch from the playoffs against Baltimore (not to mention two overtime victories against Jacksonville and Detroit), Monday night’s showdown means more for Houston than perhaps any other regular-season game. Why? Because:
1) Whichever team wins this game becomes king of the AFC. This also means you will most likely see the winning team again in the Super Bowl. Enough said.
2) The Texans are playing a team that has dominated the conference five times in the past 11 years. Who wouldn’t want to be matched up against a consistent conference winner (and three-time Super Bowl champions in the past decade)?
3) It’s not every week the Texans get to face an elite quarterback. Sure, they’ve played Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers already this season, but pitting that potent defense (especially with J.J. Watt) — which has drastically improved since the last time the teams faced off in 2010 — against Tom Brady and a highly-rated New England offense will be a true test of how good the Texans are this season.
4) Houston — with the help of some other teams — could clinch the AFC South, a first-round bye and/or home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. A Houston win and Indianapolis loss makes the Texans AFC South Champions. Add a Baltimore or Denver loss, and Houston clinches a first-round playoff bye. All three losses and a Houston win gives the Texans home-field advantage in the playoffs. Obviously, this game — to say the least — has huge postseason implications for Houston.
5) Simply put: It’s the biggest Monday Night Football matchup of the year. Perhaps few people at the beginning of the season would have agreed, but looking at the opponents’ records and how this game could alter playoff scenarios for both teams makes it one of the league’s biggest games of the season overall.
There’s a lot at stake for both teams Monday evening. No matter which one comes out on top, fans can expect to see both in the playoffs, perhaps against each other.
— Lisa Carter