Tigers enjoyed the best try-scoring record in the Premiership with 58 tries and 569 points, while Bristol totalled 43 and 398 respectively. But while both sides had only 37 tries scored against them in 22 fixtures, Bristol conceded 62 points fewer than Tigers.
"Bristol are not up there in the play-offs by mistake," said Howard. "They have been consistent over the year. They have a fantastic defence, they are hard to break down and we are going to have to work hard on our ball control.
"It is the best attacking side against the best defensive side. Bristol are very good defensively, but also their nine and 10 guide the team very well, Lemi is very dangerous and Robinson on the other wing, they have players who offer a threat."
Tigers ended the regular season on a high note with a 40-26 home win over London Wasps, and Howard was pleased with the performance that yielded four tries.
"I thought we played well last Saturday, though it was closer than the scoreline indicated," Howard said. "The crucial period was just around half-time. That was effectively the turning point.
"We have been up there consistently in the league, we have been playing well and now we have got to make sure we go the extra step."
Howard makes three changes to the team that defeated Wasps, with Seru Rabeni, Alex Moreno and Leo Cullen given a start this time and Alesana Tuilagi, Julian White and Ben Kay among the replacements. Andy Goode has recovered from a knock in the Wasps match, but Daryl Gibson and Martin Castrogiovanni are still sidelined.
Bristol also make three changes after last week's match against Gloucester, with Danny Gray coming in at fly-half as David Hill reverts to the bench, and Brian Lima and Andrew Blowers both ruled out by injury. Neil Brew returns at centre, while Nathan Budgett comes in on the blindside to replace Blowers, with Alfie To'oala moving across to No.8.
Tickets for todday's game are available from the Tigers ticket office.
How to buy
Tickets can be purchased by calling 08701 28 34 30, visiting the Tigers ticket office or by booking online at http://www.tigers.talentarena.co.uk/