Kansas City hasn’t won a playoff game since 1994, but the Chiefs could have the right man at the helm at Houston on Saturday to end that streak of futility.
Quarterback Alex Smith, who has presided over Kansas City’s current 10-game winning streak, is 3-0 against the Texans as a starter, including a 27-20 victory at Houston in this season’s opener.
What’s more, Smith has been impressive in a handful of postseason appearances. In three career playoff games — two with San Francisco and one with Kansas City — he has thrown for 873 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I don’t think this team’s carrying that weight, to be honest,” he said. “Those were the other 22 years and 22 teams. This is us. And we’re just trying to go out and win a ballgame. I don’t think we need to add any more weight to it. It’s already big enough. I think everybody understands that.”
Defense is the calling card of the J.J. Watt-led Texans, but in particular second-half defense. Houston gave up a paltry 102 points after intermission, an average of 6.4 points a game. Houston pitched second-half shutouts in two of its last three games, and gave up one touchdown in the other game.
“It’s not about speeches, I can tell you that,” Texans Coach Bill O’Brien told the Houston Chronicle. “You have to adjust while the game is going on. ‘Hey, they’re coming at us with this running play. Man, we don’t have a great front for that. Let’s go back to this front we used a couple games ago because that was good against this running play.’ The players have to adjust and that’s the type of team we have.”
The other Houston
Kansas City outside linebacker Justin Houston is expected to return after missing five games because of a hyperextended knee suffered in a Nov. 29 win over Buffalo. He made a huge play in the Chiefs’ season-opening win over the Texans, drilling quarterback Brian Hoyer and causing him to misfire. The errant pass was picked off by rookie Marcus Peters.
This game is filled with running backs who, when they were coming out of college, largely escaped the notice of talent evaluators.
Each team lost its star back this season, with Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Week 5, and Houston’s Arian Foster sustaining a torn Achilles’ tendon two weeks later.
Foster, for one, can vouch for undrafted players. Because he was one.
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for turnover differential, which is for the season (league rank in parentheses):
STATISTICS | KC | HOU
Points scored | 25.3 (9) | 21.2 (T21)
Points allowed | 17.9 (3) | 19.6 (T7)
Pass offense | 203.4 (30) | 239.6 (18)
Rush offense | 127.8 (6) | 108.2 (15)
Pass defense | 231.1 (9) | 210.4 (3)
Rush defense | 98.2 (8) | 98.2 (T9)
Sacks | 47 (4) | 45 (5)
Penalty yards | 54.9 (11) | 56.9 (17)
Turnovers | +14 (2) | +5 (T10)
Sam Farmer’s pick
The Chiefs are heading into the postseason with a 10-game winning streak, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll keep rolling. Since 1990, 14 teams have entered playoffs on a streak of eight-plus games, and six were one-and-dones. Watch for the Texans defense to make a stand and pave the path to an upset.