The NFL playoffs kicks off with the least desirable match-up of the 1st round, as the Houston Texans host the Kansas City Chiefs. This is a rematch from week 1 of the NFL season, when the Chiefs beat the Texans 27-20 in Houston.
This had potentially to be a very intriguing game, but both teams star running backs (Jamaal Charles and Arian Foster) are out for the season with injuries. Instead Charcandrick West and a committee of running backs from the Texans will lead the rushing attack.
Houston's defense was the talk of the town heading into this season, but they failed to show up early in the year. They were a major disappointment, not sacking the quarterback, forcing turnovers and gave up a ton of points. Many fantasy football owners gave up on them after they couldn't stop Matt Hasselbeck and then gave up 41 first half points to the Miami Dolphins. However things have turned around for Houston. In six of their final nine games, the Texans gave up up 10 or less points, five of those games giving up just six points.
Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense will have to make plays against Houston down the field, as the Texans defense thrives at shutting down the short passing attack. Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce will have to stretch the field and hope Smith can connect, although that's where the offense struggles. Kansas City ranked 30th in pass offense with just over 200 yards per game through the air. Houston ranked 3rd in defending the pass, allowing 210 yards per game.
Do not be surprised to see the Chiefs try to establish the run early and stick to a ground and pound offense if they can find early success. West finished the year with 640 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. Spencer Ware will also see touches, as he averaged 5.6 yards per rush this season with 6 touchdowns.
A successful run game will open up the play action pass for Kansas City, which could really hurt the Texans. Houston allowed teams to complete 62 of 92 pass attempts on play action passes for 887 yards and six touchdowns.
The Texans might have a hard time getting anything going offensively as the Chiefs rank in the top 10 in both passing and rushing defense.
DeAndre Hopkins is the key to this game. He has the ability to destroy any defense and we've seen him do it all year. He finished the season with 111 catches, 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns. If Houston finds themselves in an early hole, Hopkins might see up to 20 targets in this game.
I do not trust the Texans run game with Alfred Blue, Chris Polk, and Jonathan Grimes. Also I will take Alex Smith over Brian Hoyer in a big game. The last time I saw Alex Smith in a playoff game, he threw for 378 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Give me the Chiefs in a low scoring game 24-17.
Steelers vs Bengals
Seahawks vs Vikings
Packers vs Redskins