FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady walked into his weekly news conference and glanced at the unusually large media crowd.
“Packed house,” he said with a smile. “Big game.”
It’s about time.
On Monday night, the New England Patriots face the Houston Texans, their toughest opponent in a season in which they’ve rolled over mediocre teams. They’re 9-3 with seven wins against teams with losing records.
The Texans (11-1) are a different animal.
“They’re a great football team,” Brady said Wednesday, “so any time you play the best, you want to see how you match up.”
The Patriots did rout the Indianapolis Colts 59-24 on Nov. 18. And the Colts are 8-4 with a chance to gain a wild-card berth, although they must play the Texans in two of their last three games. The Patriots also beat the Denver Broncos (9-3) in the fifth game of the year, 31-21.
But, overall, they’re just 2-2 against teams with winning records.
So, this game is ultra-significant — a Monday night national audience, the top team in the AFC and a need to avoid falling three games out of the conference lead — to a franchise that takes pride in first-round byes and home games in the postseason.
“This is a big game for us, a game where we’re able to make up some ground that we lost early in the season,” linebacker Jerod Mayo said. “It’s hard to win any game in the NFL. I would be lying if I said we weren’t pumped for the game. But, at the same time, we’re approaching this like any other.”
They know it does no good to put pressure on themselves by attaching extra importance to the game.
“Every week is different in the game of football,” safety Steve Gregory said. “You see upsets, you see things like that. So, in order to win a football game in the NFL, you have to bring your ‘A’ game every week.”