By Dayna O’Gorman //@DaynaOG
The Houston Texans will travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs in what could be a fantastic divisional round match up. Or it could be a total blow out…by either team. What we learned from the Wild Card round is to never be comfortable, as something completely unexpected will happen.
I still can’t get over last weekend. Underdog road teams winning over teams that were almost shoe-ins for the AFC and NFC Championships. It taught us all that, at least in football, to always expect the unexpected. This weekend could easily follow suit.
I’m not sure how much you remember from the week 6 matchup between Houston and Kansas City, but it was one of the craziest games of the year. Between the two teams, there were 3 interceptions, 2 fumbles lost, both quarterbacks were held under 300 yards passing, the Chiefs were held to 53 yards rushing, only 1 sack in the entire game…yet the scoreline was impressive. The Texans won 31-24.
When looking at this upcoming game vs week 6, there are some major differences in these teams. Both teams have a lot of starters back playing that weren’t available for the week 6 game. Names like wide receivers Sammy Watkins, and Kenny Stills, and defensive tackle Chris Jones. Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes was also dealing with an injured ankle.
Yes yes I know the Chiefs were without some starters vs. Texans in week 6. We also had Thornhill, Okafor, and Ogbah in that game.
— Tyler Watterson (@thebiggszone) January 7, 2020
The biggest difference may be the Chiefs defense. Kansas City’s defense has greatly improved over the last third of the season, allowing just 11.5 points per game on average. Sadly for them, however, they lost rookie standout safety, Juan Thornhill, in the last game of the season to an ACL tear. This is a big blow to the team, and they will lean even more on Tyrann Mathieu to cover the backfield. They have also greatly improved in run blocking, which was a large factor in the first match up.
For Houston, the return of defensive end J.J. Watt was a huge boost in the Wild Card round. While he only recorded 1 sack, his presence was felt all over the field and in the locker room. Having a leader of his caliber return has proven to be a major shot in the arm for the team.
In both the week 6 game in Kansas City, and in last week’s Wild Card game, the Texans had to mount a huge comeback. In KC they were down 17-3, and in the WC game, they were down 16-0. While it is impressive they have been able to not only dig themselves out of a big hole, doing that week after week becomes more difficult and less likely. Houston QB Deshaun Watson will have to do what he does best, scramble and extend drives, to survive his porous offensive line, and a stout Chiefs defensive line, in order to avoid having to come from behind once again.
As for the Chiefs, they will need Mahomes to play like his 2018 MVP self and have the defense be ready to spy Watson and double team Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins all game. While no one worries about the Kansas City offense, if the defense doesn’t play at a playoff level, Mahomes will have to be ready to make up for it. Tight end Travis Kelce showed up on the injury report this week, but with it only being Thursday, I don’t think Chiefs fans should panic just yet.
This one could be a nail biter, or it could be a blowout. That is the fun of the playoffs, anything can and will happen.
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG