In any game, a few key matchups determine the winner. Here are the matchups that will determine if the Texans move to 3-0 all-time on Wild Card Weekend or if the Chiefs win their first playoff game in 22 years, which was, somewhat ironically, over Houston (the Oilers).
Losing Duane Brown last week was a huge loss. He was needed to protect Brian Hoyer‘s blind side against Houston, one of the game’s best pass rushers. Even though Houston has missed the last five games, he led the team with 7.5 sacks and was an All-Pro last season with 22 sacks, nearly breaking Michael Strahan‘s single season record. If the combination of Derek Newton, who struggled in recent weeks, Chris Clark, Kendall Lamm, Oday Aboushi and newly signed Andrew McDonald can’t keep the Chiefs out of the backfield, it will be a long day for the Texans offense.
2. Texans run defense vs. Spencer Ware & the Chiefs running backs
Early in the year the Texans weren’t good at stopping the run. Even though the Texans have not allowed a hundred yard rusher since LeSean McCoy in week 13 at Buffalo, that has to be a concern in this one. Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware both average over four yards per carry, and they could find some room to run in this one. If the Texans can’t slow down the run game, it will set up Alex Smith to take some shots down the field and use play action with Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce (who burned the Texans for two touchdowns in the first meeting). Slowing the run will be the key for Houston not to get burned by a tight end yet again.
Peters led the NFL in interceptions this season with eight, tied with Reggie Nelson of the Bengals. The first round pick in last year’s draft made the Pro Bowl this season and did really well against some of the league’s best receivers. He kept A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, Calvin Johnson and DeMaryius Thomas out of the end zone. But DeAndre Hopkins scored twice in the first meeting, racking up 98 yards. If Hopkins can make plays in this one, Houston will be in a good position to win.
While these two won’t go directly against one another, both are solid quarterbacks who take care of the ball. Both of them only had seven interceptions, but Smith did attempt 101 more passes this season. In a tightly contested game like this, one turnover could make the difference. Which quarterback avoids that key mistake could decide the game. While he missed a few games, Hoyer was only sacked 25 times while Smith was sacked 45 times, tied for third most in the league. Only Aaron Rodgers and Blake Bortles were sacked more this season.
This will be the first playoff game for O’Brien, while Andy Reid has coached in 20 playoff games (with a 10-10 record), including a Super Bowl. Will O’Brien have some beginner’s luck or will Reid’s experience pay off in the end? How theses coaches prepare will make a huge difference in the game. Should be a great one to kick off the 2015 playoffs.