Patriots expecting Houston's best this time around

Patriots expecting Houston's best this time around
January 8, 2013, 8:00 pm
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FOXBORO -- A couple of questions cropped up after the Patriots whipped Houston, the AFC's former No. 1 team, to the tune of 42-14 in December.
Are the Patriots really that good? Are the Texans really that bad?
At least one answer seemed obvious: No, the Texans aren't really a bad football team.
This team did not go 12-4 in the regular season by accident. And if doubt was inspired after Houston went 1-3 in its final four games, a solid showing against Cincinnati during Wild Card weekend should should have squelched a lot of it.
The Patriots certainly aren't banking on another cakewalk.
"We expect it to be a totally different ball game," Matt Slater said Tuesday. "We expect this to be a different team that shows up here this weekend, and we know we're in for a fight."
"There's a reason they're in the postseason," Vince Wilfork added. "There's a reason we're in the postseason. So I don't think anything from that game is going to play a huge factor. I think it'll give them more momentum, or give them more of an edge to want to face us, to want to beat us in Foxboro."
New England has several statistical advantages to reel off: Total offensive yards per game, (427.9 to Houston's 372.1), passing yards per game (291.4 to 239.4), points per game (34.8 to 26.0), third down conversion percentage (48.7).
Also, there's the Patriots bye week to consider. While Houston battled it out against the Bengals, New England got to rest, recuperate -- lick its wounds.
It's all well and good until game day. On that day, Slater said, the playing field is leveled.
"I dont expect it to give us some great edge or advantage come Sunday. These guys are going to come in here hungry. They feel like they owe us. We cant think, Oh, well we had the bye so were going to be OK. Thats not going to be the case at all. Hopefully we get everybody healthy and out there on the field this week, but when it comes down to, it we have to go line up and play the game this weekend."
Wilfork was in full agreement.
After all, Houston holds plenty of its own advantages on the other side of the ball: Total yards per game allowed (323.2 yards to New England's 373.2), average passing yards allowed (225.8 to 271.4), average rush yards allowed (97.5 to 101.9), third down conversion percentage surrendered (33.0 to 40.0).
"They didnt play their best game. They know that and we know that," the nose tackle said. "Come Sunday we are expecting their best. Its all or nothing from here on out and for us. We have to be able to execute. If we dont execute, well have troubles. First, it starts with their running game.
"Im pretty sure theyre sitting down there saying, You know what? They played us in the regular season and things didnt go well. We basically outplayed them and they feel that they are a better football team. They are a better football team."