In Week 7 of the NFL's 2015 regular season, the Houston Texans were crushed in Miami 44-26 to fall to 2-5. They also lost star running back Arian Foster to a season-ending injury. It looked like head coach Bill O'Brien was in some trouble.
In Week 6 of the regular season, the Kansas City Chiefs had already lost star running back Jamaal Charles to a season-ending injury and were beaten at Minnesota 16-10 to fall to 1-5. So if you had the Texans and Chiefs playing one another in the playoffs back then, kudos to you. I certainly didn't. They square off Saturday in the first game of the weekend.
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Houston won the sorry AFC North with a 9-7 record. Obviously the Texans were the top beneficiaries of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's season-ending injury. It's the Texans' first time in the playoffs since 2012. They are +2800 long shots at Bovada to win the AFC.
Kansas City closed on a 10-game winning streak and finished second in the AFC West, earning the top wild-card spot in the conference. It's Kansas City's first playoff berth since 2013. The Chiefs haven't won a postseason game since 1993, which is the last time the franchise reached the AFC title game. K.C. has lost its past eight playoff games (including that AFC Championship Game to Buffalo). The Chiefs are +700 fourth-favorites for the AFC crown.
Chiefs at Texans Betting Story Lines
This should be the lowest-scoring game of wild-card weekend. In Houston's final seven wins, it didn't allow more than 17 points in any of them. The Texans allowed just 22 combined points in a closing three-game winning streak. J.J. Watt might win a third Defensive Player of the Year Award. He won another sack title, finishing with 17.5 thanks to three in the season finale against Jacksonville. He broke his hand in early December and played three games with a cast but ditched it vs. the Jags. And while 2014 No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney has been an injury-plagued disappointment, linebacker Whitney Mercilus has really come on. He had 3.5 sacks in the finale and 12 on the season.
The Texans are nothing special on offense. Brian Hoyer is a solid quarterback. He missed two December games (five overall) but returned from a concussion in Week 17 and threw for 249 yards and a TD in the rout of Jacksonville. He's had two concussions this season, so one big hit could knock him out and lead to Brandon Weeden playing. Top receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a breakout season, catching 111 passes for 1,521 yards and 11 scores. The running game has been iffy since Foster was lost, but Alfred Blue did have 102 yards on the ground against the Jaguars.
There are four key Houston injuries to note. Clowney, who had 4.5 sacks this year, didn't play Week 17 with a foot injury but is being called day-to-day. Left tackle Duane Brown suffered a season-ending quad injury Sunday. Receiver Nate Washington is questionable after leaving Sunday's game with a hip injury. Fellow WR Cecil Shorts is, too. He hasn't played since Week 15 with a hamstring injury.
Kansas City still had a shot at the AFC West title entering Week 17 and it took care of business with a 23-17 home win over Oakland. But the Chiefs needed Denver to lose at home to San Diego, and that didn't happen. During this 10-game winning streak, Kansas City has had the No 1 scoring defense in the NFL. It has allowed more than 20 points only twice in that stretch with a high of 22.
I still worry about that Kansas City offense without Charles. Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware have shared the featured back role since Charles went out and have been pretty good. QB Alex Smith, however, has been held under 200 yards passing in the past five games, and none of those were against good defenses. If I'm Houston, I'm taking away receiver Jeremy Maclin (87 catches, 1,088 yards, eight TDs) because I'm not afraid of any other Chief.
Kansas City has some injury worries on that terrific defense. Linebacker Justin Houston, last year's NFL sack champion, missed the season's final five games because of a knee injury. But Houston returned to practice last week and could be available Saturday. Linebacker Dee Ford, a starter for the past five games in place of Houston, was being evaluated for a possible concussion suffered in Week 17. Another linebacker, Tamba Hali, broke his thumb on Dec. 20 and missed one game. He didn't play much in the finale.
These teams played Week 1 in Houston, but I'm not sure how much to take from that considering how much better both clubs are now. Kansas City won 27-20. Smith threw for 243 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those went to tight end Travis Kelce, who caught six balls for 106 yards. Charles rushed for 57 yards on 16 carries and caught five passes for 46 and a TD. Hoyer wasn't good for Houston, completing 18-for-34 for 236 yards, a TD and a pick. He also lost a fumble on a sack. He was replaced by ex-Texan Ryan Mallett with about six minutes left. He led two Houston to a couple of garbage-time scores. Foster wasn't available for that game and Blue rushed nine times for 42 yards. Hopkins caught nine passes for 98 yards and two scores.
Chiefs at Texans Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Kansas City is a 3-point favorite (-130) with a total of 40. On the moneyline, the Chiefs are -185 and Texans +160. On the alternate lines, the Chiefs are -3.5 (-105) and -2.5 (-155). Kansas City was 8-8 against the spread this season (5-3 on road) and 8-7-1 "over/under" (5-2-1 on road). Houston was 9-7 ATS (5-3 at home) and 8-7-1 O/U (3-5 at home).
The Chiefs are 1-5 ATS in their past six road games vs. teams with a winning home record. They are 0-6 ATS in their past six playoff games. Houston is 5-1 ATS in its past six after a win. The under is 5-1 in Kansas City's past six Saturday games. The under is 5-0 in the Texans' past five home games vs. teams with a winning road record. The road team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings.
NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Chiefs at Texans Betting Predictions
Houston has never lost a home playoff game, beating Cincinnati in 2011 & '12. Only once during the Chiefs' 10-game winning streak was their margin of victory fewer than seven points. They also beat only two playoff teams this year, the Broncos and Steelers. I'm going under this total as I probably like that better than a side pick. I'll take the 3.5 points.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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