While everyone was busy watching Eli Manning do his playoff Manningface this weekend, you may have heard that Vegas really, really thinks the New England Patriots will beat the Houston Texans on Saturday night. The Pats are 16-point favorites right now, which is the highest they've ever been favored in team history, according to ESPN. Not a typo. That whopper of a spread makes New England one of only four playoff teams to ever be favored by 16 or more points, and that puts them in some pretty slick (dare we say, elite?) company: the '94 49ers, who were favored by 16+ once in the playoffs and once in the Super Bowl that year, and the '98 Vikings in the divisional round against the Cardinals.
Meanwhile, Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien, who may be only second to Arizona's Bruce Arians in bluntness and master-class profanity, talked to Sports Illustrated's Peter King about playing New England, and while he surely wasn't trying to sound like his guys are screwed six ways from Sunday, that's how it came out.
Check this out:
"Our MO is to make it a game in the fourth quarter. When we've done that, we've had a good chance this season."
It totally makes sense, in a "We can't win unless we don't beat ourselves first" or a "gotta crawl before you ball" kind of way, but the other way to read this (and probably why I busted up laughing like a small child watching Dumb and Dumber for the first time at my desk) is "Well, as long as we're not getting boat-raced in the fourth quarter, then we have a shot to win the game!"
Of course, the fact that Houston's offense has varied between "Hey, things are happening!" and "Oh no, things are happening!" this season makes this even greater. The Texans were 29th in the NFL in points per game during the regular season - only Cleveland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco scored less - and a quick glance at their 2016 schedule shows that the most they've scored in a game all year is 27 points.
Bill surely hasn't also forgotten that the Texans' last trip to Gillette Stadium was Houston running face-first into a brick wall. New England skunked Houston 27-0 in week 3 with Jacoby Brissett playing quarterback, and the Texans didn't even cross the 50-yard line (again, not a typo) until there were 90 seconds left in the third quarter.
You know what? Maybe O'Brien's on to something here. Maybe the key to coming into Foxborough and beating the New England Patriots is not getting blown out late in the game. Math, and all that stuff.
Either that, or maybe Bill's paying homage to the great John Madden:
"If this team doesn't put points on the board, I don't see how they can win this game."