FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Welcome to a soggy Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots (9-3) host the Houston Texans (11-1) on Monday Night Football (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Weather conditions. It's a warm but wet December day in New England, with continued rain in the forecast for this evening. The chances of rain for kickoff as of this writing are at 64 percent, with an expected temperature of 56 degrees, according to AccuWeather.com. A steady rain has driven throughout the afternoon here at Gillette, and a green tarp continues to cover the field. That will likely be removed roughly 90 minutes before kickoff. We'll be most locked into whether or not the rain lets up (the forecast calls for at least a 43 percent chance of rain through midnight), but also of note: a humidity level of 93 percent.
Matt Light Night. The Patriots will honor longtime left tackle Matt Light, who retired this past offseason, at halftime of the game tonight. He played 11 seasons for the Patriots, providing steady blindside protection for Tom Brady during that time. Said Patriots owner Robert Kraft recently of Light: "For the past 11 seasons, Matt's many accomplishments, both on and off the field, made him the consummate Patriot." Light is the second retired Patriot to be honored this season, joining running back Kevin Faulk.
Playoff implications. Nothing more can be clinched for either team tonight, although a win for the Patriots would allow them to keep pace with the Broncos for the second seed in the AFC. Houston, meanwhile, can all but seal a top-two seed with a victory.
Patriots to honor the HOF. You'll like notice a patch on the jerseys of the Patriots this evening, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Beginning today, the bronze busts of the Patriots' five Hall of Fame players will be on display at the Hall at Patriot Place.
National TV tonight on ESPN. Tonight marks the Patriots' first regular-season appearance on "Monday Night Football" in 2012, with the game being broadcast nationally on ESPN. Lead play-by-play man Mike Tirico and former NFL head coach Jon Gruden will be on the call, with Lisa Salters reporting on the sideline. Tirico recently sat down with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (video HERE).
Gronk is out, but who else? The Patriots have declared just one player, tight end Rob Gronkowski, out for tonight's game. That leaves six others to deactivate, and the team also needs to make a move to reach the 53-man limit that is required on a game day. The likely maneuver is for running back Brandon Bolden, coming off of a four-game suspension, to be reinstated to the roster. We'll soon find out.
McAulay get the call. Veteran referee Terry McAulay will lead the officiating crew tonight. He was the referee for the Patriots' victory in Super Bowl XXXIX.
Scouts in the house. No surprise here, as a scout from both the 49ers and Colts are in the house. The Patriots, of course, host the 49ers next week, while the Texans will host the Colts.