Previewing potential opponent: Texans

Happy New Year to everyone, and here's to a great 2013.

The New Year begins with a playoff run for the Patriots, who will next play on Sunday, Jan. 13 at home. Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m. EST, but the opponent remains unknown.

Three potential foes exist -- Houston, Baltimore or Indianapolis -- all teams that the Patriots already have played this season. We're going to take some time to reintroduce each team today, including a look back at the Patriots' first matchup with each this season.

We'll start with the Houston Texans, who will host the Bengals this Saturday afternoon.


Record: 12-4, AFC South champions

Head coach: Gary Kubiak

Wild-card round matchup: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6), Saturday, 4:30 p.m. EST (NBC)

2012 MVP: Defensive end J.J. Watt

Three other players of note: Running back Arian Foster, wide receiver Andre Johnson, cornerback Johnathan Joseph

Record since playing Patriots: 1-2


Final score: Patriots 42, Texans 14 (recap here)

What it meant: The win narrowed the gap between Houston and the rest of the AFC field to just one game. It pushed the Patriots to 10-3 and Houston to 11-2. Many believe that the Texans have not been the same team since, as they struggled down the stretch.

What went right for the Patriots: A lot. Quarterback Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and nearly 300 yards, while the Patriots' offensive line held J.J. Watt without a sack, tackle for loss or pass broken up in the same game for the first time in 2012. Veteran receiver Donte' Stallworth made his season debut, catching one pass for 63 yards and a score, and Brandon Lloyd added two more as the Texans had no answer in the secondary for New England. Defensively, the Patriots held Arian Foster to just 46 yards on the ground.

What didn't: Not much. Stevan Ridley had a fumble near the goal line that was recovered by teammate Aaron Hernandez, but the Patriots clicked on all cylinders for much of the game.

Player of the game: Brady. The quarterback thrust to the top of most MVP conversations, and he was surgical in picking apart Houston's defense. Lloyd also bounced back after being held to just one catch the week before.

Other notes: Stallworth suffered an ankle injury on his touchdown and later landed on season-ending injured reserve. Tight end Rob Gronkowski sat out his third game due to a broken forearm. Aqib Talib left the game in the second quarter due to a hip injury.