The first game of the initial week of the 2016 NFL Playoffs features the AFC South champs, the Houston Texans (9-7) and the AFC West second place finisher, the Kansas City Chiefs (11-5). The over/under on the game is 40 points while the Chiefs are favored by three. The game features two teams that are enjoying winning streaks.
The Chiefs started the season dismally, going 1-5 and finding all sorts of ways to lose. Their last loss was on October 19 to the Vikings. The final score was 16-10. Since then they have won 10 straight, beating, amongst others, two playoff teams, the Steelers and the Broncos.
The Texans’ winning streak is not as impressive. Houston has won three in a row, beating Indianapolis, Tennessee, and Jacksonville. Still, they have won seven of their last 10, losing to New England, Buffalo, and Miami. One thing is for sure Houston picked the right time to win, as those last three wins certainly helped them lock up the title.
Kansas City Stats to Consider
The Chiefs have one of the highest scoring offenses in the AFC, with only the Patriots, Bengals, and Steelers scoring more points. QB Alex Smith, who has managed to gain 498 yards on the ground, making him second in total rushing for the Chiefs, has been sacked 45 times. To say the least, he’s got O-line problems. Smith has tossed 20 touchdown passes and rushed for two more scores.
The Chiefs’ ground game includes Spencer Ware who has six touchdown runs and is averaging 5.6 YPA. RB Charcandrick West leads the team in total rushing yards with 634. He has four TDs. Of all receivers, Jeremy Maclin is tops with 87 catches, 1,088 total yards, and eight touchdown catches. The Chiefs are averaging 25.3 PPG.
Kansas City’s defense is third in the NFL in points allowed at 17.9 PG. Their defensive stats are impressive, as they have amassed 47 sacks, 22 interceptions, and 13 forced fumbles. They have seven players with four or more sacks, including LB Justin Houston (7.5) and LB Tamba Hali (6.5). Seven players have two or more picks. CB Marcus Peters is tops with eight interceptions.
Houston Stats to Consider
The Houston Texans have scored most of their points through the air and WR DeAndre Hopkins has made most of those scoring catches. Hopkins, who has caught 111 passes and has 1,521 yards, has made 11 TD grabs. Other key receivers include the injured Nate Washington (47 REC, 14.0 AVG, 4 TDs), who is day-to-day, and Cecil Shorts III (42 REC, 11.5 AVG, 2 TDs).
Who’s tossing those passes? Usually it’s QB Brian Hoyer. Hoyer has thrown 19 TDs, tossed 7 INTs, and been sacked 25 times. His completion rate is 60.7%. The pass is the primary offensive tool for this team, which is averaging 21.2 PPG. That ties them for 21st in the league in that categor
Their defense, which is tied for seventh in the NFL, is giving up 19.6 PPG. The Texans have some monsters on defense, including DE J.J. Watt with 17.5 sacks and LB Whitney Mercilus with 12.0 sacks. Houston’s D has posted a total of 45 sacks. Of the 12 fumbles they have forced, the team has recovered 11. Watt also has three forced fumbles. In the secondary, which is not as accomplished as Kansas City’s, Andre Hal leads the team with four picks.
The kicking situation is scary for Kansas City. Placekicker Cairo Santos is 9 for 11 from between 40-49 yards and 4 of 8 from plus-50. He’s missed two extra points. With a three-point spread, those are major stats. For Houston, kicker Nick Novak can hit anything as long as it’s not from the 50-yard mark or beyond. At 50-plus, Novak is 2 of 5.
The Texan running game is quite weak and Hoyer has a tough time with mobility. The Chief D excels in every area and should give Houston a tough time. The Texan quarterback rush will challenge Smith, but he’s got some decent legs. Houston is at home, and that will help them in a small way. They are 5-3 when paying on their own turf, while the Chiefs sport the same record when away.
We are going with the Chiefs for a few reasons. They bring a better all-around defense and offense to this game and have been able to beat a wide range of teams. We think their secondary will have a good day. Still, Houston will make it interesting, especially with their ability to put pressure on Smith with the blitz.
We also like the under. Kansas City should score around 20 points and Houston under 15. The game will be played on Saturday, January 9 at 4:30 pm.