NFL Nation: tempo

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the biggest games of the regular season will take place at Gillette Stadium when the New England Patriots (9-3) host the Houston Texans (11-1) on "Monday Night Football."

Here are three keys to watch in this game:
  • 1. Tempo, tempo, tempo: This game could come down to which team sets the pace. Great teams dictate tempo, and that is something both the Patriots and the Texans are very good at. New England runs a fast-paced, no-huddle offense that thrives on getting more offensive plays than its opponent. As a result, the Patriots lead the NFL in scoring and have the top-rated offense. Houston likes the set a physical tone by running the football. The passing game feeds off the run and is capable of making big plays through the air. Pace will be key for both teams.
  • 2. Big-game QBs: We know what Patriots quarterback Tom Brady brings to the table in big games. But Houston quarterback Matt Schaub is a major unknown in this area. This game, by far, will be the biggest of Schaub's career. He's never won a playoff game but this will be the closest thing to it considering how much is on the line. Schaub, who has been good this season, still needs to prove he can thrive under these circumstances. A win over Brady in Gillette Stadium will silence many of Schaub's critics.
  • 3. Home-field advantage: Speaking of Gillette Stadium, the Patriots rarely lose at home in December. New England is 22-1 at home in December since 2001, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The Patriots have won 19 straight, and their last home loss in December came a decade ago against the New York Jets. Gillette Stadium has been a house of horrors for opponents this time of year. New England has the best December home record in the NFL since 2001.

The AFC East blog will bring you all the latest from Gillette Stadium. Be sure to check back Monday night four our live chat in addition to postgame reaction. You also can get live updates by following on Twitter here and here.

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