By Levan Reid, WBZ-TV SportsBy Levan Reid

BOSTON (CBS) – All week long the Patriots have faced questions about the Houston Texans, and all week long they have had to defend them.

After the game the Pats had against Houston in December, many people think this game will be a cake walk for New England.  Some have gone so far to say that this will be another bye week for the Patriots.

The players in the locker room obviously don’t share the same feeling.

Throughout the week, the Patriots have said they expect Sunday’s tilt to be a tough affair. They got the best of Houston last time, but that has nothing to with how this upcoming game is going to go.  In fact, many of the players believe the Texans are coming to Foxboro with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.

Read: What To Watch For In Pats-Texans Rematch

Vince Wilfork is one of those players.  He said offensively you cannot count the Texans out, and it starts with their all world running back Arian Foster.

“The things he can do with the ball in his hands in the passing game and running it,” Wilfork said. “He’s a great blocker when they ask him to block. He’s a special player, we understand that. We know it starts with their running game. You can’t x-out the receivers,Andre Johnson, you can’t x-out [tight end] Owen Daniels, can’t x-out the quarterback, can’t x-out their offensive line. They’re well put together. Last time they played us, they didn’t play us well, so I’m pretty sure they’re going to come out fired up and ready to play this week.”

Foster scored a touchdown five weeks ago in New England, but only mustered 46 yards on the ground and another 39 on four catches. He led the way for the Texans in last week’s Wild Card win over the Bengals with 140 rushing yards and a score, so we’ll see which Foster comes on Sunday — or which one the Patriots allow to show up.

Getting Spiked

The Patriots leader on defense is obviously Wilfork, but their emotional leader and energy supplier is Brandon Spikes.

The third-year linebacker is a gritty player and does all the dirty work for the Patriots.  A ferocious hitter, Brandon Spikes wants the other team to feel his presence when he’s in the field.

He categorizes the playoffs as “go hard or go home,” and he doesn’t want the alternative.

“In my opinion, I feel like every game is important,” says Brandon. “But I approach the postseason as ‘that’s it.’ If we don’t come out and play well, we’re going to be at home, plain and simple, watching the next game, and it’s an awful feeling.”

Read: As Always, Patriots Full Of Cliches Leading Up To Playoffs

The way last year ended was an awful feeling for Spikes.  None of the guys like to talk about what happened last February in Indianapolis, but they understand what it takes to get over the hump.

“Everybody just feels like we came up short, but that’s part of the game, that’s part of football. We’ve just got to do whatever we can to not let that happen again,” said Spikes. Like I said, we had a great day today and I’m looking forward to tomorrow and trying to get better every day. No matter what, we’re just going to come out and play hard for the whole four quarters.”

Slater Is Ready

Special teams captain Matthew Slater has become one of the mainstays with the Patriots.

It’s funny, because last preseason many thought if Slater didn’t prove himself he would have been cut.  Now fast forward to today, and Slater has been a pro bowler the last two seasons and a team captain. He takes pride in his job on special teams and whenever he can help out in the offense.

Read: All Systems Go? No Question Marks On Pats Injury Report

With the playoffs getting underway, Slater has been through this before and understands what it takes to play in the postseason.  He says that right now, he’s as hungry as he’s ever been to start the playoffs.

“I think the sole reason you play this game is to be the best,” he said this week. “You want to be the best team and this is the ultimate team sport. To be able to come as close as we did last year, and have past failures in my previous seasons here, it just drives you and motivates you more. We’re a team that’s very hungry. We don’t feel like we’ve accomplished anything. We don’t feel like we’ve arrived at all because it’s all for naught unless you do something in the postseason. We’re very driven, very motivated, very focused — myself personally and my teammates. We feel like we have a lot left to accomplish and hopefully we’re going to do that.”

Tune in to Sunday’s Patriots-Texans playoff game on 98.5 The Sports Hub and WBZ-TV. Kickoff is at 4:30pm, with pregame coverage beginning at 1pm on 98.5 with Patriots Preview, and 11:30am on WBZ-TV with a special hour-long edition of Patriots Gameday. Following the game, tune in to three hours of postgame coverage on the Hub, and Patriots 5th Quarter on myTV38!


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