Following Houston’s win over the Bengals and the Titans’ loss at the hands of Jacksonville, the Texans are locked in to the AFC’s number four seed. Week Seventeen features three games that will decide the first round of AFC playoff matchups, between Miami and New England, Oakland and Denver, and Kansas City and San Diego. With their Wild Card opponent yet to be determined, let’s take a look at the teams Houston could potentially face in the first round of the postseason.
(Wild Card opponent with: Raiders’ loss to Broncos + Chiefs’ win over Chargers)
Houston dropped a close game to Oakland in Mexico City this season, largely thanks to some questionable calls by the referees (DeAndre Hopkins was in, y’all). The Texans managed a decent offensive outing against the Raiders’ 27th ranked defense and proved capable of containing Oakland’s run game (lead back Latavius Murray managed only 33 yards against Houston). The Texans dominated the time of possession and total offensive yards, particularly in the run game. Lamar Miller posted a 107-yard performance along with a touchdown, one of his best games of the season.
If they meet Oakland in the first round of the postseason, the Texans will face quarterback Matt McGloin, who is in his fourth year with the Raiders. McGloin took over last week after starter Derek Carr suffered a broken fibula against the Colts. This quarterback switch should work in Houston’s favor, as the Texans’ could have an easier time containing wideout Amari Cooper and Oakland’s aerial attack with McGloin at the helm. If Houston receives a rematch against the Raiders without Carr, it could be a very winnable first round for them. The Texans should have quite a bit of fire for that game after being robbed the first time around.
Houston beat Kansas City 19-12 earlier this year. They have shown that they are capable of winning versus the Chiefs, but Kansas City is still a dangerous option for the Texans in the playoffs. The Chiefs’ defense has been solid this season, and Kansas City has lost only two games since their bye in Week Five.
The Chiefs have a star tight end in Travis Kelce, though the Texans held him to only 34 yards earlier this season. Rookie Tyreek Hill, who has burst onto the scene as a true dual-threat option, is a rising offensive weapon in Kansas City’s arsenal. Listed as a wide receiver, Hill has 547 receiving yards and six touchdowns, along with 252 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns this season. Containing these two players will likely be the toughest challenge for the Texans, but it is nothing the number one NFL defense can’t handle.
Despite their struggles against the run, Houston played well versus the Chiefs’ stable of running backs. Starting back Spencer Ware has eclipsed 100 yards only once this season and was held to only 57 yards against Houston. The Chiefs’ offense outpaces Houston’s for now, but the Texans house the far superior defense. This could be a tough match-up for the Texans in the first round.
(Wild Card opponent with: Dolphins’ win over Patriots + Chiefs’ loss to Chargers)
The Dolphins scorched Houston in 2015, defeating the Texans 44-26. That was the same game that ex-Dolphin Lamar Miller rumbled for 175 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown, along with 61 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. Thankfully, Miller plays for the good guys now, and he should be able to burn his former team (the NFL’s 30th ranked run defense) in the postseason.
The most dangerous part of facing Miami in the first round will be the Dolphins’ run game. Jay Ajayi is having a career year, amassing 1,213 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns after a slow start to the season. Houston’s defense has been exceptional this year, but it has struggled to contain the run. Stopping Ajayi would be perhaps the most important factor in a win over the Dolphins in the playoffs. Miami will have a hard time beating the Houston secondary without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who suffered an MCL and ACL injury in Week Fourteen. Tannehill could be pushed to return in time for the first round of playoffs, but I have to believe Miami isn’t going to risk re-injuring him. It seems unlikely Tannehill is back for the Wild Card matchup, giving Houston the advantage of playing against backup Matt Moore. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry will be another key target for the Texans’ defense, as the young wide receiver has been an explosive weapon this season.
Note: Miami seems to be the least likely Wild Card opponent for the Texans, since the Dolphins would have to beat the Patriots this weekend to secure the number five seed.
What do you think, Texans fans? Who do you want to see the Texans host in the first round of the playoffs? Is there a team you prefer or a team you really don’t want to meet in the Wild Card round? You can use the comments section to discuss the Texans’ potential playoff opponents as we head towards the final games of the regular season.