Football Goes On: AFC Divisional Preview
I think my computer may be broken. I’m looking for the Patriots playoff game, but I don’t see them. Oh, that’s right, they choked against the Titans. This weekend for the first time in a long time, the New England Patriots won’t play in the divisional round. This doesn’t mean that we should just turn off the TV set, actually this may be a look into the future for many years to come.
Houston vs. Kansas City
At this point on the calendar, Texans QB Deshaun Watson is as healthy as he’s ever been. Escaping the pocket the way he did in an OT victory against the Bills last week put Watson in the same breath as Lamar Jackson and the QB he’ll be facing off with this week Patrick Mahomes. Watson according to Next Gen has been pressured on 22.8% of his drop backs which is a career low. Something potentially that may be a positive for Watson and the Texans is they are one of three teams that beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. That was a 31-24 win for Houston whose quarterback got the job done on the ground with 2 touchdown runs. Passing was a different story with Watson getting picked off twice. Charvarius Ward had one of the interceptions but throw Tyrann Mathieu in the mix and the defense for KC could have a repeat performance defending the passing game.
The Texans don’t revolve around just Deshaun Watson, so some other key contributors to watch for include Carlos Hyde who went over 1,000 yards on the ground and had 116 yds on 26 carries against the Chiefs and a touchdown. Deandre Hopkins took a little while to get warmed up against the Bills last week but when he did, he was a crucial target for his QB. In five games against the Chiefs, Hopkins has 7 touchdowns on 32 catches and 394 yds. To me, Will Fuller is the big question mark. He hasn’t played since week 16 and he adds the explosiveness that the Texans are looking for and are capable of. If he plays, Houston COULD pull off the upset.
After a bye, teams coached by Andy Reid are 22-5. The Chiefs had a bye so they should be in good shape. Tight end Travis Kelce seems to be the only big injury for Chiefs fans to watch for, but he should be good to go. Once the Chiefs get going, they’re a runaway train averaging 379 yards a game on offense which is 2nd in the AFC and 6th overall. The Chiefs are on a 6 game winning streak winning by an average of 16 points a game. Yes, it was against the middle and bottom of the NFL, but there was one game against the Patriots that went down to the final minutes of the 4th. Just like with the Patriots at the start of the season, I’m curious what the Chiefs will look like when they face adversity which will happen at some point in a playoff game.
Mahomes does have backup in the ground game with Damien Williams (111 carries, 498 yds, 5 TD) and LeSean McCoy (101 carries, 465 yds, 4 TD). Giving the Chiefs an emergency option on the ground game and dump passes makes them dangerous and in my eyes an advantage in getting to the AFC Championship.
Tennessee vs. Baltimore
The Chiefs have won 6 straight but the Baltimore Ravens have turned the NFL into their playground riding a 12-game winning streak. One item of note though is the status of RB Mark Ingram. He’s been limited in practice but if he’s not at 100%, you can certainly expect that Lamar Jackson will hold his own on the ground. Jackson set a record for most rushing yards in the NFL by a QB in a single season.
While names like Jackson, Ingram and Andrews may attract fantasy players, the Ravens defense has been a proverbial brick wall allowing the fewest TD’s (18), PPG (15.2), total YPG (268.9) and defensive TD (6).
Marcus Peters is at the forefront of the secondary with 3 INT returned for TD, but the player I’m watching for that isn’t going to get a lot of attention is Matthew Judon. He’s had 9.5 sacks this season, but if he gets past the Titans offensive line. If Derrick Henry gets taken out of the game plan, Tannehill may meet big number 99.
The Titans beat the Patriots as we all know. Derrick Henry had a record setting night but he can’t be the offense alone. The Titans defense should match up well, especially one player Kenny Vaccaro who was used in safety blitz plays. How do the Titans win? Control the clock, get Henry to catch passes and hope Lamar Jackson hits traffic on his way to the stadium. Ravens win by the biggest margin of the playoffs so far.