The New England Patriots have earned the number one seed in the AFC, which means that they will face the lowest remaining seed in the divisional playoff round. Prior to today, that meant that the team's opponent would either be the Miami Dolphins, the Houston Texans or the Oakland Raiders.
With Houston beating Oakland 27-14 today, only two teams remain as possible matchups for the Patriots. Either the fourth-seeded Texans or the sixth-seeded Dolphins, if they are able to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow, will travel to Foxboro.
This, in turn, means that New England will face a team it has already beaten this season. In weeks 2 and 17, the team defeated the Dolphins 31-24 and 35-14, respectively. In week 3 the Jacoby Brissett-led Patriots emerged victorious from their Thursday night game against Houston 27-0. No matter who they will eventually play, New England will enter the game as huge favorites.
If the Patriots and Texans will indeed face off next week, it would be the second time this matchup happened in the playoffs. The two teams played each other in the 2012 divisional round as well, with New England winning 41-28. It would also be the third time that Bill O’Brien, now head coach in Houston, would face the team for which he worked from 2007 to 2011.
The Patriots have hosted Houston four times since since the Texans’ conception in 2002. The Patriots won 40-7 in 2006; 42-14 and 41-28 in 2012; and 27-0 in 2016.