HOUSTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 13: J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans greets Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs on the field after the Chiefs defeated the Texans 27-20 at NRG Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

As soon as the NFL playoff bracket was set, it was obvious which game was going to get dropped in the “run to the home-improvement store” Saturday-afternoon time slot: The Kansas City Chiefs at the Houton Texans.

The 9-7 Texans, being the least-awful team in the NFL’s worst division, get to host the red-hot Chiefs. On a 10-win streak, the Chiefs have beaten some of the AFC’s best teams—not to mention already beaten the Texans at home. Wake me when it’s over, right?

Wrong: The battle-red headed stepchild of Wild Card weekend could just be the best matchup on the slate.

Think of all the great matchups: DeAndre Hopkins, No. 3 in the NFL in both receptions and receiving yards, going up against rookie Marcus Peters, tied for the NFL lead in interceptions. Back in Week 1, the very first play was a pass intended for Hopkins—and Peters picked it off.


On the other side of the ball, Chiefs receiver Jeremy Maclin has finally hit his stride, averaging six catches for 79 yards and a touchdown over the last six weeks of the regular season. He’ll likely be shadowed by Texans corner Johnathan Joseph, in the midst of an outstanding season.

Monster pass-rusher J.J. Watt, with a freshly un-clubbed hand, mirroring Justin Houston and his return from a hyperextended left knee. The Chiefs are re-shuffling their line to cover an injury to starting right tackle Jah Reid, and the Texans just lost three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown to injury in Week 17. With two of the best pass rushes in the NFL teeing off on two cheesecloth offensive lines, there should be plenty of big hits.

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos

Storylines? Sure. Eric Berry only beat cancer in the offseason and came back better than ever; he’ll be ready to feast on embattled Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer in a bid lock up the Comeback Player of the Year award.

After riding a Combine-fueled hype train to the 2014 No. 1 overall pick, injuries have kept Texans pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney off the field and out of the headlines. Yet somehow, one of the freakiest freaks that ever freaked their way into an NFL front seven has put up 4.5 sacks and 28 tackles in the past eight games, all while playing commendably against the run and in coverage. Pro Football Focus has graded him positively in all but one of the 13 games he’s played.

New England Patriots v Houston Texans

Sure, the Chiefs have the NFL’s ninth-best scoring offense, and the Texans are ranked just 21st. Yes, the Texans’ great strength—their seventh-ranked scoring defense—is weaker than their Kansas City counterparts (ranked third). But don’t just look at the Chiefs’ record, look at how they’ve been winning.

In Week 14, the Chiefs hosted the miserable San Diego Chargers—a team they’d blown out 33-3 just three weeks before. Smith and the Chiefs offense struggled mightily to get anything going; a miraculous Philip Rivers-led drive (including three fourth-down conversions) put San Diego on the doorstep of an equalizing score.

In Week 16, the Chiefs struggled to put away the Cleveland Browns. Yes, the fire-everybody-and-hire-a-baseball-executive-because-it-couldn’t-get-any-worse Browns, for crying out loud, were down by four and driving for the go-ahead score when Johnny Football ran out of time just outside the red zone.

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 20: Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates while running off the field following the Chiefs 34-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 20, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

In the final week of the season, with their entire season on the line, the Chiefs still couldn’t solidly beat the eliminated Oakland Raiders. Once again, Derek Carr had the ball and 1:34 and needed just one big play to erase a six-point deficit and end the Chiefs’ season…and he, once again, fell short.

Can Brian Hoyer and the Texans play the Chiefs that closely in a home playoff game atmosphere? Yes, they can.

Can the Chiefs blow a close, meaningful game in the final seconds? Yes, they can.


Before the Chiefs went on a 10-game win streak with a lot of close shaves, they were on a five-game skid with a lot of close shaves, too. Remember the prime-time debacle against the mighty Denver Broncos, when the Chiefs’ fifth fumble of the evening opened the door for the Broncos to sneak out a win?

Remember the 18-17 heartbreaker against the Chicago Bears, when Jay Cutler threw two touchdowns in the last four minutes? Or the week after against the Minnesota Vikings, when they followed three scoreless quarters with a 10-point rally that fell six points short?

The fact is, the Chiefs have had a knack for turning blowouts into squeakers, and competitive games into heart-stoppers, all season long. The wiseguys in Vegas know it—for all their momentum and on-paper advantages, Oddsshark reports the Chiefs are just three-point favorites at most sportsbooks.

So if you’re going to hit up the mall and the home-improvement store—you know, have a nice little Saturday—wake up early, get out early, and get back on the couch before the Chiefs and Texans kick off. You wouldn’t want to miss what’s shaping up to be the most hard-fought, closely won game of the weekend.

About Ty Schalter

Ty Schalter is thrilled to be part of The Comeback. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ty also works as an NFL columnist for Bleacher Report and VICE Sports, and regular host for Sirius XM’s Bleacher Report Radio. In another life, he was an IT cubicle drone with a pretentious Detroit Lions blog.