With their 20-17 win last week against the Colts, the Texans are at 7-4 and leading the AFC South. What's been a better-than-normal season for them was marred two weeks ago by a 41-7 bludgeoning by the Ravens in Baltimore.
That loss in a game where you figured Houston had to show a high level of competitiveness to be taken as a serious contender in the AFC brought on a cascade of "Same old Texans…" laments and with good reason.
When the lights get bright – as they will be Sunday night – Bill O'Brien's team too often shrinks. The Texans are 5-2 over their last seven games and have some credible wins on their record – at Kansas City and the Chargers, at home against the Raiders – but the Patriots are their white whale. The Patriots have won their last six meetings against Houston including one in 2016 when Jacoby Brissett was the starter.
The Patriots, despite their offensive challenges, keep getting it done with defense, special teams, discipline and resiliency. Their last two wins at Philly and home against Dallas were the kind of tough-minded performances the Texans so often seem incapable of putting together.
This week, the Patriots get a five-hour flight for a Sunday night game after illness swept through their locker room. On a holiday week. After their kicker had to have his appendix confiscated. Everything kind of lines up for Houston here.