Despite not having an even solid quarterback and their best player J.J. Watt getting injured, the Houston Texans were able to win the rather porous AFC South division and thus earn the fourth seed in the playoffs. They will play the Oakland Raiders this Saturday at 3:30PM CT in a rematch of their game in Mexico City, where the Texans blew an early lead and three quarters of amazing defense to lose 27-20. Here’s a look at how they can beat any of the AFC playoff teams, from the Raiders to the top team in the New England Patriots.
Derek Carr led the Raiders’ comeback, back in Week 11 but he is now out of the season due to a broken leg. Matt McGloin started in Week 17 but injured his shoulder, so rookie Connor Cook got some reps too. They haven’t chosen a starter yet as the severity of McGloin’s injury is still unknown. The Texans face a similar problem as Tom Savage, whom it looked like Bill O’Brien was going to continue starting for the rest of the season, got a concussion against the Tennessee Titans this past week and may be out. If that’s the case, then every Houstonian’s favorite player Brock Osweiler will start.
How they can win
Take a look at McGloin and Cook’s numbers: 6 for 11 for 21 yards and 14 for 21 for 150 yards, a touchdown and an interception, respectively. That is with one of the best wide receiver duos in the league in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, so it’s safe to say that the Raiders’ passing situation may actually be even worse than the Texans’. This will help the Texans tremendously as the Raiders’ offense, the main reason why they’re in the playoffs, will become one dimensional and thus a whole lot easier to defend.
Oakland plays three different backs regularly: Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington, all in the top 40 in the league in terms of yards and as a group they lead the sixth best running game in terms of rush yards per game. Murray also has the fifth most rushing touchdowns in the league at 12. While they may be dangerous on the ground, the Texans can stop them as they did in their previous matchup, as they held the trio to 35 yards on 16 carries. The Texans’ run defense started the year horribly, as they ranked 29th after Week 7. However, they’ve been able to turn it around and end up with the 12th best run defense. This means that they’ve been one of the best run stoppers in the league as of late and can contain the Raiders.
Finally, expect Lamar Miller to run all over this Raiders defense. In Week 11, he rushed for more than 100 yards and got a touchdown. The lone consistent offensive weapon will look to do much of the same against a ranked 23rd run defense, hopefully opening passing opportunities for Osweiler to do even minimal amounts of damage. If Miller can get it going and the defense can stop the Raiders, which shouldn’t be that hard for the number one defense in the league, then the Texans should easily make it to the next round.
With all of this in favor, the Texans should beat the Raiders barring any major disappointments.
Kansas City Chiefs
If the Miami Dolphins beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, then the Texans will face the Chiefs in the second round. They could also play them in the third round if the Texans beat the Patriots and the Chiefs win their second round game. This will be a matchup that the Texans should be salivating for, as they’ll want to redeem themselves after their 30-0 embarrassment in the first round of last season’s playoffs. The Texans also won the Week 2 game 19-12. However, this Chiefs team, especially the offense, has improved a lot since then, making this a much harder game to win
How they can win
If they do face off, whether it be in the second or third round, it will be a battle of two very different defenses. While the Texans specialize in limiting opponent yardage, the Chiefs disrupt all offenses through all of the turnovers they cause: they lead the league in interceptions and are third in forced fumbles. Therefore, the Texans need to remain poised and disciplined on offense. Just writing that sentence made me nearly lose all hope because that is the complete opposite of what their offense is but no, anything is possible.
If they can avoid turning the ball over, the Chiefs’ defense isn’t the best at actually stopping teams, as they are ranked 18th in opposing pass yards per game and 26th in opposing rush yards per game. Miller can have a great game against them and Savage, who should be back by then, can have a solid one. The Texans can also stop the Chiefs’ offense, which specializes in not making mistakes. However, this sacrifices the potential for any big plays and so the Houston defense can contain Alex Smith and company.
The main concern is whoever is playing quarterback; if they remain poised and don’t make any horrible mistakes, this is a very winnable game.
New England Patriots
If the Pittsburgh Steelers win, then the Texans will play the Patriots in the second round. They can also play them in third. They faced off in Week 3, when the Texans got blown out 27-0, and that was with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, not Tom Brady. Still, anything is possible no matter how unlikely it seems, even the Texans beating the New…ya, probably won’t happen, but let’s see how they can at least compete.
How they can
As you can probably tell, I strongly believe that the Texans cannot win this game, the Patriots are just too good. They’re near the top in both offense and defense, whether it’s passing or rushing. Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, LeGarrette Blount is bullying defenses, and the defense is allowing the least points per game by a wide margin. As much as I hate them, I feel like they’re going to, once again, win the Super Bowl unless they face their kryptonite in the New York Giants. Speaking of which, possibly my favorite play of all time right here (I have no idea how Joe Buck isn’t going crazy). And here.
The only way I see them possibly winning is if they pressure Tom Brady. Given enough time, he will find an opening no matter how good the coverage. If you get to him fast and hit him often though, you may fluster him just enough to have a shot. I don’t see Blount doing too well against the Texans run defense, so Brady is the main person to at least attempt to contain. If they do that, hopefully the offense can score enough points. Honestly though, Texan fans have to hope that the Dolphins somehow upset both the Steelers and the Patriots so they can avoid this matchup.
They can only play the Steelers in the third round if they win out and the Texans beat the Patriots, so this is the least likely of matchups. If they do play though, the defense will have to bring its A game to stop Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown.
How they can win
Honestly, behind the Patriots the Steelers are the team I least want the Texans to play. Their star-studded offense may prove too much for even the Texans’ defense and their defense has been surprisingly good. The reason why they went 11-5 and not better is because of the Bell suspension and Roethlisberger getting and rehabbing from a knee surgery midway through the year. Now, the team is clicking on all cylinders and looking to be a dark horse in the playoffs.
Bell has been an absolute beast since Week 11 and it looks like there’s no slowing him down. The key will be to lock up Brown, which is a lot easier said than done. If the Texans can do so, Roethlisberger will not have many options at wide receiver and tight end to pass to. Their run defense is so good that they can stop Bell from going crazy on them, so they have to take away the passing game to stop the Steelers’ offense, and that starts with taking away Big Ben’s favorite target.
The Texans will play the Dolphins if Miami wins out and the Houston beats the chiefs. If they do make it to the third round, the Dolphins will likely have Ryan Tannehill back at quarterback, so the Texans can’t expect to take advantage of Matt Moore playing like they will against the Raiders.
How they can win
Even if Tannehill plays, it’s not like he is that great of a quarterback. It’s honestly not the passing game that the Texans have to worry about, its the running game. The reason why the Dolphins made the playoffs is because of the emergence of Jay Ajayi and a never give up attitude. Their defense will cause a lot of havoc and fluster whoever is playing quarterback for the Texans. The key in this game is running, both on offense and defense. The defense needs to contain Ajayi while Miller, who would be facing his former team, needs to take advantage of one of the worst run defenses in the league.
With an amazing run defense for the past several weeks and one of the better runners in the league, the Texans should be able to beat the Dolphins.