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NFL picks against the spread, Monday night: AFC championship preview at hand?

When the Houston Texans play the New England Patriots Monday, fans could be seeing a preview of the AFC championship game to be played in January 2013.

David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Games like Houston-New England are why people watch the NFL, and specifically football on Monday night. America gets treated to the Texans and Patriots in what should be a pretty good show. The Texans (11-1) hold home-field advantage in the playoffs at present. The Patriots (9-3) can make that battle interesting with a win Monday.

This game probably won't feature much in the way of defense, although if any defense is to shine it will be that of the Texans. Houston must improve on a pass defense that has been torched in recent weeks, but the Texans can certainly being pressure on Tom Brady with J.J. Watt's pass rush.

The Texans counter on offense with playmakers in Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, plus a capable Matt Schaub at quarterback and a solid offensive line.

The Patriots are 10-1 in their last 11 Monday night games. That's a good sign. But the Texans come in as arguably the NFL's best team overall.

One team's six-game winning streak will end. The Patriots are four-point home favorites. That's too many for a team with two fewer wins than their opponent, and the Texans will not be blown out and far more often than not lately have beaten the spread on the road.

Also, beware of possible rain showers. Precipitation will have an effect on the game if there is indeed some inclement weather, at least until the teams can adjust to it.