After the Tennessee Titans scored a stunning upset over the AFC’s top-seeded Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night, the Houston Texans will try to pull off another unlikely win when they travel to Kansas City to face the second-seeded, 12-4 Chiefs in the second Divisional Round playoff matchup, on Sunday afternoon.
Like the Ravens, the Chiefs come into the game as seemingly prohibitive 9 1/2-point favorites, according to Sports Illustrated. But the Texans have already proven they can beat Kansas City — and on the road as well.
Back in Week 6, Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another, overcoming a three-TD passing effort by Chiefs’ signal-caller Patrick Mahomes, leading Houston to a 31-24 victory. But the loss came as part of a slump in which Kansas City dropped three of four, only to regroup and end the season on a six-game winning streak — including a win over the New England Patriots that gave them an all-important tiebreaker.
Thanks to that win over the Patriots, the Chiefs grabbed the second seed, a bye week, and were assured of hosting the divisional round game. Now, however, with Baltimore’s early exit, Kansas City will also host the AFC Championship game — if they manage to overcome Houston.
ESPN previews the matchup in the video below.
The game also features a matchup of two of the league’s best young quarterbacks — who were picked just two slots apart in the 2017 draft. Leading up to that draft, Kansas City brought both Mahomes and Watson in for evaluations, finally deciding to trade up for the 10th pick to select Mahomes out of Texas Tech, as The Boston Globe recounted.
With the 12th pick, Houston scooped up Clemson quarterback Watson.
AFC South winners Houston were severely tested in the Wild Card round against the fifth-seeded Buffalo Bills. But Watson almost singlehandedly led his team back from a 16-0 third-quarter deficit to tie the game by the end of regulation. Houston then took the victory on a Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal with 3:23 remaining in the first overtime period.
But Watson is likely to find himself under considerable pressure against a Kansas City pass rush that has sacked opposing QBs 34 times in just their last 10 games, according to USA Today stats.
At the same time, the Houston offensive line has had a difficult time protecting their star quarterback, allowing seven sacks against Buffalo in the Wild Card game alone, and 16 in their last three games.
The Chiefs defense came to life as the season moved into its home stretch, allowing just 52 total points to their most recent five opponents to finish seventh overall in points-against.
The Texans-Chiefs AFC Divisional playoff game kicks off at 2 p.m. CST — or 3 p.m. EST, noon PST — and will be broadcast nationally by the CBS network, with their lead announcing team of Jim Nantz and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo calling the action.