NFL Playoffs: Chiefs-Texans — Four Things to Watch For
January 16, 1994. That was the last time the Kansas City Chiefs won a playoff game, and it took place in Houston, Texas. A Joe Montana-led bunch knocked off the Oilers 28-20 in a game that featured a wild fourth quarter (31 points scored by both teams combined) and marked the end of the Warren Moon run-and-shoot era of Oiler football.
In all honesty, it marked the functional end of Oiler football. The following season, the Oilers went 2-14 and simultaneously owner Bud Adams tried to force the city into building him a new stadium or else he'd move to Nashville. The city balked, Bud moved, and the rest is history. A couple decades later, here we are with the internet, social media, Netflix, and the Houston Texans as our football team. Also, Bud Adams is dead.
So in a weird way, the Chiefs had a small hand in creating the Texans, which is weird because the Chiefs were once named the (Dallas) Texans. Circle of life! Anyway, where the hell am I going with all this.... oh yeah, the Texans (the Houston ones) play the Chiefs (who used to be the Dallas Texans) in an NFL Wild Card round game on Saturday at NRG Stadium. The two teams met in Week 1 of the season with the Chiefs winning 27-20, and Bill O'Brien making the near fatal decision to turn the reins over to Ryan Mallett.
See?!? The Chiefs almost killed football in Houston a second time! They must be stopped! Here are a few things to watch...
4. Special teams
Outside of "providing a paycheck to both J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins," there's nothing that the Texans do particularly better than the Chiefs. Honestly, outside of those two players, every other aspect of the Chiefs is basically a super souped up version of what the Texans have. So if the Texans are going to win this game, they have to play sound special teams. The first matchup between these teams, the Texans gave up huge chunks of yardage in the return game. That can't happen this time around.
3. Chris Clark
Throughout the second half of the season, the Texans were fortunate enough to start the same offensive line, all five guys, in every game, except the one game Brandon Brooks was dealing with illness. You just knew the football gods weren't going to let us enjoy that any longer, but did they really have to zap Duane Brown's quad tendon? That seems harsh. Anyway, Brown's replacement will be veteran Chris Clark, who has playoff experience (started for the AFC champ Broncos two seasons ago) and the confidence of his coaches. He will need more than that to block Justin Houston and/or Tamba Hali.
2. Screen game
In the first matchup between these two teams, the Texans actually defended Jamaal Charles fairly decently running the football. Where he kills them (and where Andy Reid coached teams kill everybody) is in the screen game. There will be no Charles in this game, but there will be screens. Actually, look for the Texans to use the screen pass a little bit as well to neutralize KC's ferocious pass rush. Put me down for at least a couple Akeem Hunt chunk plays in the passing game.
1. Alex Smith off schedule
Since halftime of the Miami game in Week 7, the Texans have sacked opposing quarterbacks 34 times. In fact, J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus are the only tandem in the league each with double digit sacks. To get after the passer, it helps to have the passer waiting there in the pocket when the pocket collapses. Mobile quarterbacks have been a bit of an issue for the Texans, and Alex Smith is very underrated athletically. (There are reasons he was selected first overall in 2005. Athleticism is one of them.) Smith had the fourth most rushing yards of any quarterback in the league (498 yards). The Texans played two of the three QB's ahead of Smith in rushing yards, and went 0-2 against them (Newton, Taylor), and in each game the QB run game hurt them. Containing Smith on the ground will be a key on Saturday.
All of this said, I just have a gut feeling..... let's go with the Chiefs bad playoff mojo sprinkled in with a little Andy Reid....
PREDICTION: Texans 17, Chiefs 16
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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