How Big IS Monday’s Game?
The big matchup of the NFL season for the Houston Texans is coming up Monday night. A national cable/satellite television audience will see the team with the best record in the NFL visit the home of the best team in the NFL over the last decade. The New England Patriots led by coach Bill Bellicheck and quarterback Tom Brady will be waiting.
It sounds like a very important game and it is. But just how much so is the question. A Texan win could almost guarantee the team home field advantage throughout the playoffs to the Super Bowl. A New England win could affect that, but not for sure since both clubs still have games to play.
A New England win–especially if it were convincing– could put some doubts in the minds of Texan fans and maybe even players whether despite their record they are really the team to beat in the AFC. A Texan convincing win on the road against the Patriots would make Houston a heavy favorite to advance to and win the Super Bowl.
Yet, how much does any result in this game really matter?
The Houston Chronicle posted a breakdown over the weekend showing how clubs either unbeaten or having the same 11-1 record as the Texans currently have have fared in the post season. From those numbers it would be wise not to be too confident. A decent number of those teams have made it to the Super Bowl. But a low percentage have actually won it. And several were knocked out of contention in early rounds after sluggishly finishing the regular season after having clinched playoff berths.
The two most famous non Super Bowl champs were the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots. The Colts forfeited a chance to finish with an unbeaten season when many key players were rested in the last game of the year. They lost that game and were also bounced in the post season before reaching the final game.
The Patriots did better but could not finish. They were unbeaten to the Super Bowl itself. Then they lost to the New York Giants.
In both cases the Colts and Patriots were heavy favorites, but did not win.
In football injuries play such a huge part in how a team can perform week to week. The Texans are 11-1 despite having lost several key linemen and defensive players during the year. They have still been able to win although not always playing as well as they might had they been fully healthy. There is always a danger others could fall before the final game is played. That is why luck as well as skill is a key to winning the Super Bowl–or even just getting to play in it.
Perhaps the most important thing about Monday’s game with New England is not the final score at all, but which players make it through healthy. The competitive level will be on a par with the Super Bowl in a few weeks. That is why it is a big game. Both clubs will make the playoffs and both could meet again with something truly on the line. THAT will be the big game. Monday night is just practice.