As the Texans put their finishing touches on their preparation for tomorrow afternoon’s first round playoff matchup, I am sure you are feeling a little bit of deja-vu. Well, if you are, it’s ok because so am I.
Our Texans are right back where the season started with the Kansas City Chiefs coming into Reliant Stadium.
If you recall, that game did not go too well for the Texans as they lost 27-20, in a game that wasn’t even that close. In this game, the Chiefs imposed their will on the Texans by dominating both sides of the ball. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce obliterated the Texans defense to the tune of 6 catches for 106 yards and 2 TD while the Chiefs dynamic pass rush of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali made life miserable for Brian Hoyer. The Chiefs defense made things so miserable for Hoyer that Bill O’Brien benched Hoyer in the 3rd quarter which led to the beginning of the ill-fated Ryan Mallett era. Yikes.
Things have however changed for the Texans. Since beginning the season 2-5, the Texans have persevered, and overcome all odds, by finishing the season 9-7.
What makes this finish to season so special is that they were able to accomplish this despite losing all-pro running back Arian Foster to injury and enduring nine quarterback changes (you heard me….NINE!!!). The Texans turnaround can be credited to a combination of great defensive play and a “shtick” offense that incorporates options, wildcats and sweeps. Coach Bill O’ Brien and Offensive Coordinator George Godsey also deserve credit for making a patchwork running back group look credible.
On paper, these two teams are remarkably similar. Both teams come into this game hot, the Chiefs have won their last 10 games and the Texans finished the season 7-2 over their last nine. Both teams have exceptional defenses with efficient but shaky offenses. This game has the making of what “old-school” football was all about. Look to see a defensive slugfest where both teams will have to grind and fight to get into the scoring column.
Here are three matchups to watch on Saturday:
- Chiefs CB Marcus Peters vs. Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins
Marcus Peters has had an exceptional season. The rookie from the University of Washington led the league with 8 interceptions this year and will be a big challenge for the Texans star receiver. Hopkins will be vital to the success of the Texans offense that is devoid of true playmakers. He is the one star the Texans have an offense and he will need to play like it tomorrow. This battle is a must win for the Texans if they want to win this game.
- Texans Pass Rush vs. Chiefs Pass Rush
The defenses of both the Texans and the Chiefs sport two elite pass rushers. The Texans have the likely defensive player of the year in J.J. Watt (17.5 sacks) and Whitney Mercilus (12 sacks) while the Chiefs counter with last year’s sack leader Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Both Houston and Hali are coming off of injuries but both are exceptional pass rushers that are likely to play tomorrow. If both Houston and Hali suit up, Chris Clark (replacing the injured Duane Brown) and Derek Newton will have to bring their proverbial “A games” if they want to keep Hoyer in the game and off of the trainer’s table.
- Texans Defense v. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce
Travis Kelce is beast and you saw a great example of what he’s capable of in the Chiefs-Texans Week 1 matchup. Kelce is a matchup nightmare for the Texans defense. He’s too quick for linebackers and too big for defensive backs in coverage. There’s a reason why they call Kelce “Baby-Gronk”. The Texans defense will have to switch looks on Kelce with their linebackers and safeties to keep the Chiefs offense guessing on what matchup Kelce will be getting on any given snap. It’s inarguable that Kelce will get his, but if the Texans can keep the Chiefs out of the red zone, where Kelce feeds, his impact could be much less impactful.
As I stated previously, these two teams are remarkably even. While I do prefer the Texans defense over the Chiefs, I also prefer the Chiefs offense over the Texans. Both teams need to stay out of third and long in order to succeed. If the Texans can score early, or force an early turnover, Alex Smith will be forced to throw the ball. If this happens, I think the Texans have a great chance of advancing to the second round.
This one will be close, but I think the Chiefs will take care of the ball and their defense will force Hoyer into a mistake or two. I see the Chiefs pulling out a tough, hard fought win against the Texans on the road.
Chiefs: 16 Texans: 13