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Pro Picks: Patriots to repeat December romp
Question of the Day
Bill Belichick insists the rematch of a December game with the Texans will be different.
Not too much different, of course, because he fully expects his Patriots to win the divisional-round playoff game and advance to the AFC title match.
As for another 42-14 outcome, New England’s coach is having none of it.
“The plays will match up differently and I’m sure there will be new plays that weren’t in that game,” Belichick said. “I don’t think you can overanalyze that game. We’re playing a team, we have our team, they have their team and it’s a big picture thing.”
The big picture is that the AFC East champion Patriots (12-4) come off their playoff bye as 9 1/2-point favorites against the AFC South winners. Houston (13-4) beat Cincinnati 19-13 in the wild-card round, not looking particularly overwhelming.
It’s pretty simple what the Texans must do at the outset Sunday: stay close. They fell behind so quickly on Dec. 10 that the outcome was decided after one quarter.
“We know that our effort and how we performed last time wouldn’t give us a chance against anybody on the road,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “It’s about right now refocusing on all the things we have to do to go down there and have a chance to be successful, and I’m sure that’s what they’re thinking about.”
It won’t be as bad as 42-14, but …
BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 41-14.
Green Bay (plus 3) at San Francisco
The Packers have no fear about going on the road in the postseason. A similar crew to this year’s group won three away games two years ago, then beat Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.
And the NFC North champion Packers who the West-winning 49ers face Saturday night have gotten healthier as the playoffs approached. They have a decent running game to go with that deep receiving corps Aaron Rodgers throws to.
But Green Bay has two significant questions:
_Can the spotty offensive line neutralize one of the NFL’s most dangerous pass rushes, something it couldn’t do in the season opener?
_Can a defense that has been gorged on the ground at times slow down the league’s fourth-best rushing attack, led by Frank Gore.
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