Kansas City (11-5) at Houston (9-7)
When: Saturday, January 9th 2016
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Time: 4:35 ET | TV: ABC
The Kansas City Chiefs look to build on their current 10-game winning streak when they visit the Houston Texans in the first round of the NFL Playoffs on Saturday. This will be a rematch from Week 1 when the Chiefs built a 27-9 halftime lead only to fend off the Texans 27-20. Kansas City went on to lose the next five games against four playoff teams, but then benefited from a weaker second half schedule to win their next ten. The Chiefs stopped turning the ball over and own a +16 turnover margin in their current streak. Quarterback Alex Smith, who threw 20 touchdowns this season, has thrown four of his seven total interceptions in the last four weeks. The Chiefs own the sixth best rushing attack in the league despite losing star Jamal Charles to a season ending injury in Week 5. Charcandrick West leads the team with 634 yards rushing and has another 214 receiving. He was held to just 34 yards on 13 carries in the season finale against Oakland. The defense is playing lights-out for head coach Andy Reid. The Chiefs rank third in points allowed (17.9) and have only allowed two opponents to score 20 or more points since October 11th. Smith has two targets that he favors the most in wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and tight end Travis Kelce. Maclin has a career-high 87 catches this season and seven of his eight touchdowns have come in the Chiefs current winning streak. Kelce has caught 72 balls this season, but was limited to just one catch for 10 yards last week against the Raiders. His best game of the year was the Week 1 win over Houston when he caught 6 balls for 106 yards and two scores.
The Texans started out the season slow as well going 3-5 in the first half up to their by week. They came back from their bye with a huge 10-6 win at Cincinnati on Monday night that seemed to be a momentum builder. They won six of their final eight games including the last three. The defense held four of those opponents to just six points each including the Bengals and Saints. J.J. Watt continued his dominance and led the league with 17.5 sacks for the third ranked total defense. Putting pressure on the quarterback is why they surrendered only 210 yards passing a game this season – 3rd best in the NFL. Quarterback Brian Hoyer was benched after the Week 1 loss to Kansas City, but returned in Week 4 and has put up pretty good numbers since. He did miss three weeks down the stretch with concussion issues, but played healthy last week. He has 19 touchdowns to just seven interceptions on the season with a 91.4 QB rating. Like Kansas City, the Texans lost their star running back early in the season and had to rely on Alfred Blue to pick up the slack. Blue struggled in the role early on, but has put some big numbers recently rushing for 254 yards on 56 carries the last three weeks. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in third in the NFL in both receptions (111) and yards (1,521) to go along with his 11 touchdowns. The Texans are looking to improve to 3-0 in Wild Card round games.
This is going to be a very defensive game and I’m taking the under as my play. If I have to take a side, I’ll have to go with the points in this one since I predict a low scoring game. I don’t trust Alex Smith in big games and I think Watt will be chasing him all day. You can probably get 3.5 at most places, so take the FG and hook.
Pick: Under 40