AFC Showdown: Pats to Knock Down Texans in AFC Showdown

The Week 14 NFL finale showcases two of the elite AFC teams as the Houston Texans (11-1) head to Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Patriots (9-3).

The Texans sit atop their division with the best record in the AFC. The offense is 5th overall, putting up 389.6 yards per game led by QB Matt Schaub, whose completion percentage of 64.4% and 94.5 rating is 9th overall. WR Andre Johnson has turned it on after a slow start to the season and is 4th in the league averaging 92.8 yards per game. The Texans should get their shots through the air tonight coming up against the Patriots defense which is ranked 29th, allowing 279.9 yards passing per game. RB Arian Foster leads the Texans 6th-ranked ground game and is averaging 91.8 yards -- rushing and could be a critical outlet to Shaub when the Patriots turn up the pressure.

The Texans field one of the stronger defenses allowing a 6th-best 322.6 total yards and a 4th-best 18.4 points per game. The secondary is banged up, though, with CB Brice McCain on IR and Jonathan Jospeh and Alan Ball nursing injuries. The defensive key for the Texans will be getting pressure on Brady to not allow him to take advantage of the defense downfield. While the Patriots’ offensive line can usually be relied on to keep QB Tom Brady upright, they are coming up against DE J.J. Watt, who is second in the league with 16.5 sacks.

Another player to keep an eye on is Texans rookie LB Whitney Mercilus who has racked up five sacks so far.

The Patriots have wrapped up the AFC East division and come into tonight jockeying with Houston for the top AFC seed. Brady continues to be one of the elite passers with a rating of 102.6 and completing 64.8% of his passes. Look for him to exploit the weakness in the Houston secondary with deep shots to WRs Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd early. The Patriots have also been helped by the surprising emergence of their running game behind RB Stevan Ridley, who is 7th in the league with 84.2 yards per game. Ridley can help diffuse some of the pressure on Brady but the yards will be tough to come by against the stout Houston defense, which is 2nd in the league allowing only 87.6 yards per game.

The usually strong offensive line which has kept Brady upright for the most part is facing a tough fight with G Logan Mankins and RT Sebastian Vollmef listed as questionable, and it will be a  key matchup to watch against the aggressive Houston pass rush. The New England defense has also been improving during their six game winning streak, and while it is still only 27th overall, allowing 380.8 yards per game, it has been getting better in key areas such as generating turnovers and limiting 3rd down conversions.

FOX Business has evaluated the win/loss and stock market statistics over the past 20 seasons of Monday night NFL games and come up with a Monday Night Markets (MNM) score for each team based on their record and the prior week’s market activity. Let’s take a look at what the markets have to say.

The Dow Industrials ended last week up, gaining 0.99%, and the S&P 500 was up as well, closing out the week with a 0.13% gain. Positive economic data including a better than expected November jobs report offset the earlier pressure from disappointing consumer sentiment numbers and nervousness surrounding the fiscal cliff negotiations.

Over the past 20 years, the Texans have played five Monday night games and based on our calculations have a Monday night rank of .500 when the Dow closes the prior week up, and .667 when the S&P 500 is up, giving them a MNM rank for this week of .584.

During the same 20-year period, the Patriots have played 26 Monday night games and have a rank of .643 when the Dow is up and .600 when the S&P 500 is up, giving them a MNM rank this week of .622.

Monday Night Markets picks the New England Patriots at home over the Houston Texans.

Week 14 FBN Staff Picks:

Texans @ Patriots

The Monday Night Markets (MNM) rank is derived by taking the number of games won during each market condition of up or down during a twenty-year period, over the total number of games played. Each result for the Dow and S&P are averaged to determine a final rank between 0 and 1.