2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Pro Picks: Patriots to repeat December romp

By BARRY WILNER - AP Pro Football Writer
    2013-01-09 11:16

Bill Belichick insists the rematch of a December game with the Texans will be different.

Not too much different, of course, because he fully expects his Patriots to win the divisional-round playoff game and advance to the AFC title match.

As for another 42-14 outcome, New England's coach is having none of it.

``The plays will match up differently and I'm sure there will be new plays that weren't in that game,'' Belichick said. ``I don't think you can overanalyze that game. We're playing a team, we have our team, they have their team and it's a big picture thing.''

The big picture is that the AFC East champion Patriots (12-4) come off their playoff bye as 9 1/2-point favorites against the AFC South winners. Houston (13-4) beat Cincinnati 19-13 in the wild-card round, not looking particularly overwhelming.

It's pretty simple what the Texans must do at the outset Sunday: stay close. They fell behind so quickly on Dec. 10 that the outcome was decided after one quarter.

``We know that our effort and how we performed last time wouldn't give us a chance against anybody on the road,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ``It's about right now refocusing on all the things we have to do to go down there and have a chance to be successful, and I'm sure that's what they're thinking about.''

It won't be as bad as 42-14, but ...

BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 41-14.

Green Bay (plus 3) at San Francisco

The Packers have no fear about going on the road in the postseason. A similar crew to this year's group won three away games two years ago, then beat Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.

And the NFC North champion Packers who the West-winning 49ers face Saturday night have gotten healthier as the playoffs approached. They have a decent running game to go with that deep receiving corps Aaron Rodgers throws to.

But Green Bay has two significant questions:

-Can the spotty offensive line neutralize one of the NFL's most dangerous pass rushes, something it couldn't do in the season opener?

-Can a defense that has been gorged on the ground at times slow down the league's fourth-best rushing attack, led by Frank Gore.

The Niners also have some uncertainties, notably how second-year QB Colin Kaepernick will handle the playoff pressure for the first time. They do have a secondary that matches up well with Green Bay's receivers.

The Pack has been through this before and succeeded. Why not again?

UPSET SPECIAL: PACKERS, 30-27

Baltimore (plus 9 1/2) at Denver

For the Ray Lewis Tribute Tour to keep rolling, the Ravens must beat Peyton Manning and the NFL's hottest team, the AFC West champion Broncos. In the Mile High City.

It's a lot more imposing a task than the AFC North champ Ravens faced at home against the Colts.

``There's probably an element that we'll carry forward because you're always building on what you are,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ``Hopefully we take all the things that happened and we take it into that game emotionally and carry it with us. But this is a new game. It's a whole new environment. It's a whole new situation for us. So I think the slate is wiped clean in that sense. This will be a new challenge for us.''

Too big a challenge.

BRONCOS, 27-20

Seattle (plus 3) at Atlanta

Seattle has become the fashionable choice, the outsider that could emulate the Giants of last season, the Packers of the previous year, and so on.

The Falcons, meanwhile, have been stamped by many as the shaky favorite because of an 0-3 postseason record under Mike Smith. There's also the feeling that no team fears going into the Georgia Dome, and with the Seahawks having erased their road woes in the last month or so, they are a formidable foe.

Still, these Falcons are better than the previous three playoff editions, and they have the big, physical and versatile receivers to deal with Seattle's big, physical and versatile secondary.

Like the other NFC game, this will be close.

FALCONS, 22-20

---

2012 RECORD:

Against spread: 2-2 (114-126-7). Straight up: 3-1 (162-93-1)

Best Bet: 8-8-2 against spread, 12-6 straight up.

Upset special: 11-7 against spread, 9-9 straight up.

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Emmanuel SandersNov 20 07:42p

Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (concussion) has done conditioning work and will be evaluated again Friday, Nov. 21.

Eric KushNov 20 07:03p

The Kansas City Chiefs have declared WR A.J. Jenkins, QB Aaron Murray, CB Christopher Owens, WR Donnie Avery, C Eric Kush, CB Jamell Fleming, OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardif inactive for Week 12.

Matt McGloinNov 20 07:03p

The Oakland Raiders have declared CB Carlos Rogers, TE David Ausberry, OG Gabe Jackson, SS Jonathan Dowling, QB Matt McGloin, OG Tony Bergstrom, CB Travis Carrie inactive for Week 12.

Charles ClayNov 20 06:42p

Miami Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee) did not practice Thursday, Nov. 20, after being limited Wednesday, Nov. 19.

Tauren PooleNov 20 06:42p

The New Orleans Saints released RB Tauren Poole Thursday, Nov. 20.

Jordan CameronNov 20 06:12p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) did not practice for the second straight day Thursday, Nov. 20.

Arian FosterNov 20 05:52p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) did not practice Thursday, Nov. 20, after being limited the previous day.

Pierre ThomasNov 20 05:42p

New Orleans Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder) was limited in practice Thursday, Nov. 20. Thomas has missed the last four games, but he said there's a chance that [ More ]

Jerick McKinnonNov 20 05:32p

Minnesota Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (back) was limited in practice Thursday, Nov. 20.

Jimmy SmithNov 20 04:32p

Baltimore Ravens CB Jimmy Smith (foot) said Thursday, Nov. 20, that a Lisfranc injury is the reason he is out for the rest of the season.

Montee BallNov 20 04:22p

Denver Broncos RBs Montee Ball (groin) and Ronnie Hillman (foot) both did not practice for the second straight day Thursday, Nov. 20.

Ronnie HillmanNov 20 04:22p

Denver Broncos RBs Montee Ball (groin) and Ronnie Hillman (foot) both did not practice for the second straight day Thursday, Nov. 20.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 20 04:12p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) is optimistic he'll be able to play Sunday, Nov. 23. He went through rehabilitation Wednesday, Nov. 19 and Thursday, Nov. 20.

James AndersonNov 20 04:02p

The Atlanta Falcons signed LB James Anderson (Titans) Thursday, Nov. 20. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Josh GordonNov 20 04:02p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon was amped up and excited to take part in his first practice with the team this year Wednesday, Nov. 19, but QB Brian Hoyer [ More ]

Charles ClayNov 20 03:02p

Miami Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee) is expected to be a game-time decision for Week 12 because of a knee injury.

Dwayne AllenNov 20 02:32p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) missed his second straight day of practice Thursday, Nov. 20, and The Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer would bet on Allen sitting out this weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 20 02:12p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) was not participating during the media-access portion of practice Thursday, Nov. 20.

Julius ThomasNov 20 01:32p

Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) is not participating in practice Thursday, Nov. 20.

Emmanuel SandersNov 20 01:22p

Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (concussion) is not participating in practice Thursday, Nov. 20.

Giovani BernardNov 20 01:12p

Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (clavicle, hip) is participating in practice Thursday, Nov. 20.

Reggie BushNov 20 01:02p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) said he is on track to play against the New England Patriots in Week 12. He was not able to play in Week 11 because of the injury.

Josh GordonNov 20 12:32p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon is expected to be limited in Week 12 because it will be his first game of the season, and the team does not want [ More ]

Adrian PetersonNov 20 11:52a

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has officially appealed his suspension, according to a source. The NFL Players Association is looking for a neutral arbitrator to hear the case, but [ More ]

Arian FosterNov 20 09:13a

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) is likely share carries with RB Alfred Blue if he plays in Week 12.

LeGarrette BlountNov 20 08:32a

The New England Patriots signed free-agent RB LeGarrette Blount (Steelers) to a two-year deal for the veteran's minimum plus incentives Thursday, Nov. 20.

Giovani BernardNov 20 01:13a

Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (clavicle, hip) will be eased back into the lineup, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said Wednesday, Nov. 19. 'I think we've got to work him [ More ]

Jeremy HillNov 20 01:13a

Cincinnati Bengals RB Jeremy Hill is likely to get a bulk of the carries in Week 12 against the Houston Texans, according to beat writer Geoff Hobson, despite the [ More ]

LeGarrette BlountNov 19 09:33p

Free-agent RB LeGarrette Blount (Steelers) went unclaimed on waivers Wednesday, Nov. 19, and is now an unrestricted free agent available to sign with any club.

Brian LeonardNov 19 09:33p

The New Orleans Saints released RB Brian Leonard Wednesday, Nov. 19.

Jalen SaundersNov 19 09:33p

The New Orleans Saints signed WR Jalen Saunders off the practice squad of the Seattle Seahawks Wednesday, Nov. 19.

Arian FosterNov 19 06:33p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 19.

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