After nearly sleepwalking into wildcard round defeat against the Buffalo Bills, the Texans lived to survive another day. This is largely due to Deshaun Watson calling upon his inner Michael Jordan to deliver some overtime magic.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs have been resting up and keeping healthy. The power of securing a bye in the playoffs cannot be understated, just ask the New Orleans Saints.
Will the Texans offence show up for the first quarter?
Up until week 17, the Texans failed to score a single touchdown on their opening drive. This ugly streak finally came to a halt when backup quarterback A.J. McCarron led the team to the 1-yard line allowing Duke Johnson to run in the score.
So for all of Watson’s greatness and heroics, his play in the opening quarter of a game leaves much to be desired.
When these teams met in week 6 at Arrowhead Stadium, the Texans managed only a solitary field goal in the first quarter, whilst KC ran up 17 points. This certainly lit a fuse under the Houston offence as they answered back with 20 points in the 2nd quarter, which paved the way for an important 31-24 road comeback victory.
If the Texans offence can match this kind of performance, a franchise first AFC Championship game will be on the cards.
Can Patrick Mahomes be slowed down?
It’s no secret the arm talent that Mahomes possesses. Following another stellar year for the former Texas Tech product, he’s now passed for 76 TDs in his NFL career whilst throwing just the 18 INTs. Mistakes from him are few and far between, the Texans D will need to bring their A-game.
Cycling back to these two teams’ meeting in week 6, some cracks did develop in Mahomes’ game. With a four-man rush coming at him, Mahomes took a shot at the end-zone in an uncharacteristic panicked manner from the HOU 31. The pass was easily picked off by Tashaun Gipson and the Texans then went 80 yards down the field to drag themselves back into the match.
In this game, Mahomes went on to make an even more costly error. With just 0:32 left on the game clock in the first half, he was strip-sacked by the quietly impressive rookie Charles Omenihu. The ball was scooped up by the Texans D allowing Watson to scramble in from 3 yards out and give Houston a lead they never surrendered.
Forcing these mistakes and bringing all kinds of pressure to Mahomes is one the keys to victory for the Texans.
A healthy Chiefs D-line could cause problems
The amount of times Watson has been sacked over the past two seasons has been well documented. So it comes as bit of surprise to see that in the regular season encounter between the teams he was not brought to ground once.
This can largely be attributed to a pair of absent and injured pro bowlers on the Chiefs D-line. Their defensive tackle Chris Jones was inactive for the game due to injury, whilst defensive end Frank Clark played through a pinched nerve ailment, which undoubtedly limited his ability to make a play.
With this duo now healthy and coming off a full week’s rest, they should be raring to go.
If they stop Watson from escaping the pocket and extending plays, it will completely stifle the Texans offence.
Super Bowl aspirations
For the Texans, either match-up poses a fascinating encounter. If both the Texans and Titans advance it’ll be an intra-division clash in Houston and the birth of a great NFL rivalry. If the Ravens triumph they then will play hosts to the Texans. These two met back in week 11 and it was no contest, with Baltimore recording a stunning 41-7 victory. So for the Texans, they are looking at a rivalry or a revenge game should they proceed.
If the Chiefs come away as the winners on Sunday, a rather appealing match-up between the #1 and #2 seeds could lay in wait. This is the game neutral fans are crying out for. Two high powered offences with prolific quarterbacks going hammer and tongs. If it’s the Chiefs and Titans competing for a place in Super Bowl, then the KC defence will need to stop the bulldozing Derrick Henry from taking over the contest.
All four possible outcomes pose exciting propositions. For sure, the AFC will be well represented in the Super Bowl in Miami on February 2nd.