FOXBORO — After a week of seemingly endless hype, the Patriots and Texans will finally be ready for some football at Gillette Stadium .
When they do kick off at 8:30, it will be unseasonably mild, with the forecast calling for cloudy skies and 56 degrees. Not exactly the weather that was anticipated for Dec. 10 in Foxboro when the schedule was released back in April. The rain that fell earlier is not expected to be a factor since the field was covered by a tarp.
The game features top-ranked offense in the NFL in the Patriots (426.3 yards/game) and the fourth-ranked offense in the Texans (389.6). While most know Arian Foster leads a rushing attack (142.5 yards/game) that sets up a dangerous play-action offense, the Patriots have quietly moved themselves into the top 10 among rushing teams in the NFL. The Patriots rank eighth at 140.8 yards per game.
The Patriots offensive and defensive lines figure to each get a big boost with the return of a key starter.
After missing three games with a left ankle injury, Logan Mankins  is expected to return to his customary starting spot at left guard while Chandler Jones – and his six sacks – are expected back at right defensive end for the Patriots.
The only Patriots player ruled out for tonight due to injury is Rob Gronkowski , missing his third straight game with a broken left forearm. Julian Edelman  was placed on injured reserve and is done for the season after injuring his foot in the AFC East-clinching win over the Dolphins in South Florida on Dec. 2.
Jermaine Cunningham  is missing his second straight game after being hit with an NFL-mandated four-game suspension for violation of the league’s PED policy.
In addition to Mankins and Jones, 11 Patriots are listed as questionable, including tight end Aaron Hernandez , Wes Welker , Dan Connolly , Sebastian Vollmer  and Brandon Spikes . All are expected to play, barring any last-second setbacks in pre-game warmups.
Injuries could play a much bigger role for the Texans as they are without starting right tackle Derek Newton (knee), outside linebacker Brooks Reed and tight end Garrett Graham (concussion).
Tonight will be a night to honor one of the most decorated offensive linemen in Patriots history as Matt Light  (inset), who retired last spring, will become the fifth Patriots player since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 to retire as a career Patriot and receive the honor of addressing the fans during a halftime ceremony. He joins former teammates Kevin Faulk  (2012), Tedy Bruschi  (2010), Troy Brown  (2008) and Ted Johnson  (2005) to receive the honor.