- James Walker, ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter
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1. It's the rematch: The Patriots had their way with the Texans during their first meeting in Week 14. New England scored at will and pounded Houston 42-14. It was a statement game for the Patriots that helped secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage via the head-to-head tiebreaker. New England is 6-2 at home this season and should enter this game confident after the first meeting.
2. Schaub vs. Brady: One of the biggest advantages for the Patriots will be at quarterback. Houston's Matt Schaub could have a tough time matching three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady of the Patriots. Schaub won his first career playoff game Saturday with a 19-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Schaub looked shaky and threw for 262 yards and an interception, which was returned for a touchdown. Schaub must do much better opposite Brady, who has masterfully run an up-tempo offense that leads the NFL in yards and points. Brady threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns in the first meeting against Houston.
3. Secondary in focus: Schaub will have a chance to be successful against New England's defense. The Patriots are ranked 29th against the pass, although New England's secondary has played better in the second half of the season. A key matchup will be Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib against Houston Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson. Talib has the size and athleticism to keep up with Johnson, who must have a big game for Houston to pull off the upset.
4. Containing J.J. Watt: Despite the blowout in Week 14, New England had a lot of trouble with Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt. He had four tackles, three hits on Brady and a forced fumble. The Patriots schemed against Watt and did all they could to keep him from making plays. But Watt still gave the Patriots issues.
5. Patriots are getting healthy: The Patriots should be as healthy as they've been in months. The two weeks off provided time for a lot of key players to get some much-needed rest. Four Patriots starters -- tight end Rob Gronkowski (arm), receiver Wes Welker (ankle), defensive end Rob Ninkovich (hip) and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) -- are nursing injuries. New England has a chance to peak at the right time in the playoffs with the team closer to full strength.
Five things to know about Sunday's Houston Texans-New England Patriots playoff game at Gillette Stadium:1. It's the rematch: The Patriots had their way with the Texans during their first meeting in Week 14.