1. Matt Schaub
Schaub is in the spotlight every week, but it will be focused on him more than ever in Foxboro as the Texans try to stake their claim to home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
This is the biggest game of Schaub’s 9 year career. Remember, he sat out the final 8 games of 2011, including both playoff games. With an 11-1 record this season, Schaub has largely laid to rest questions about his ability to lead a team to an elite level. But, until he wins more games like this, high-pressure battles in December and January, his ability to come up big in the biggest games will always be a great unknown.
Schaub can answer those questions and shut up many critics with a stellar performance Monday night in the biggest game of the season, and the biggest of his career.
2. Kareem Jackson
If there’s one weakness on this Texans team, it’s the secondary. And a matchup versus one of the greatest QBs in NFL history in Tom Brady and the number one passing offense in the league could spell disaster if Jackson and his defensive backfield mates don’t step up their game.
Jackson is no longer the clear weak link in the Texans secondary. He has shown he can hold his own against some of the best in the league, i.e. Calvin Johnson in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.
But Jackson will likely draw coverage on Wes Welker much of Monday night. The shifty, elusive Welker is Tom Brady’s favorite WR target. Whether Jackson can cover him one on one will go a long way to determining if the Texans win this AFC heavyweight bout.
3. Owen Daniels
I expect Bill Belichick to do everything he can to take Andre Johnson out of this game. That’s what the Patriots defense often does- identify a team’s best weapon and then do whatever is necessary to neutralize that player.
With that in mind, Daniels will have to pick up the slack and make the Patriots pay for double-teaming Johnson. The seven-year veteran is having one of his best seasons yet. If Daniels has another big night on Monday, the Texans should return home with a 12-1 record and another notch in what they hope will be an AFC Championship belt.
SportsRadio 610 Sports Director Robert Henslee has been covering the Texans on a daily basis since they were approved as the NFL’s 32nd team on October 6, 1999. Follow Robert on Twitter: @SportsRadioRH