Kansas City Chiefs Vs Houston Texans: The Game that No One's Talking About

It’s Wildcard weekend and the excitement of playoff football is in the air. After the seventeen week battle of attrition that was the 2015 NFL season, it’s now time for twelve of the league’s elite franchises to take part in the tournament that all leads to Super Bowl 50 on February 7th at Levi’s Stadium.

While the top two seeds in each conference are enjoying their byes this week, eight other franchises will do battle for the right to face them in next week’s Divisional round. This week is filled with intrigue and there are big-time franchises playing in almost every game. Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Washington, Seattle; the list goes on and on.

Kansas City Chiefs Vs Houston Texans: The Game that No One’s Talking About

And yet, there’s one game that seems to be flying under the radar during this frenzy, and in fact it’s the contest that will kick off the Wildcard festivities on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. It’s the Kansas City Chiefs versus the Houston Texans: the game that no one’s talking about.

I suppose that it’s understandable that this game has been somewhat overlooked. These two teams never seem to receive a great deal of media attention as it is, in spite of the fact that they both roster some bona fide superstar players. Regardless of why these clubs don’t seem to get the recognition they deserve, the respective paths they have taken to get to this game have been nothing short of extraordinary. These Chiefs and Texans are both legitimate contenders in January, and there are many reasons why.

Let’s start with the fourth-seeded Houston Texans. The Texans won the AFC South title this year and finished with a record of 9-7. It was a very interesting season for this franchise and this is best exemplified by the journey, not the destination. After a 2-5 start, the Texans’ season looked to be done like dinner. Their stellar defense didn’t play up to par, they seemed to be rotating Bryan Hoyer and Ryan Mallet at quarterback every week, and a general sense of disappointment surrounded the team. Throughout all this adversity, however, they never gave up on each other and they never quit.

Eventually they settled on Hoyer as the starter, and the defense started playing up to it’s elite level, and all of this was going on as DeAndre Hopkins cemented himself as a top-five NFL wide receiver to the tune of 111 catches, 1,521 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Right now Julio Jones and Antonio Brown are getting all of the hype for each going over 1,800 receiving yards this year, but Hopkins was just as effective catching passes from a quarterback carousel.

Of course, in the midst of all this, J.J Watt was his usual dominant self, tallying 17.5 sacks and continuing to be the straw that stirs the drink for this franchise. This Texans pulled together, shook off the poor start and went on to win seven of their final nine games, earning the right to host a playoff game, as improbably as it seemed through after the first seven weeks of the season.

In many ways, the fifth-seeded Kansas City Chiefs are a mirror reflection of the Texans. After six weeks of the season, the Chiefs sat at 1-5 and everyone had written them off. Their best offensive player, Jamaal Charles, had torn his ACL in Week Five and was out for the season. Nothing was going right, and Andy Reid even faced some media speculation about his job security, as crazy as that sounds. But as is often the case with football (and life), just when things seem like they can’t get any worse, things start to turn around.

And in the case of the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs, they turned around in a big way.

In Week Seven, the Chiefs played host to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that no one expected them to win. But win they did, pulling off a stunning 23-13 upset against a Steelers team that no one thought they had any right to defeat. People chalked it up to a shocking upset, but no one thought it meant anything for the Chiefs’ season. How wrong that assumption was.

As it turned out, that game was the first of a ten game winning streak the Chiefs went on to close out the season, finishing at 11-5, and firmly in the playoffs. The Chiefs were able to find significant contributions from reserve runners Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, who both stepped up and had some big games in relief of Charles. Ware, in particular, is averaging a robust 5.6 yards per carry on the season. Alex Smith had a strong second half of the season, letting it fly more than we’re used to seeing while making big plays with his legs to the tune of 498 rushing yards. Free agent acquisition Jeremy Maclin brought a vertical element to the passing game that is was sorely missing, becoming the first Chiefs’ wideout to post a 1,000 yard season since 2011.

And you cannot write a column about this team’s turnaround without mentioning the defense. Put simply, over the course of the ten-game winning streak, this may have been the best unit in the NFL. Notable accomplishments of this group during the winning streak include; allowing fewer than twenty points in eight of the ten victories, securing eighteen interceptions, recording thirty-four sacks, and scoring four defensive touchdowns.

What makes the Chiefs versus Texans match-up so fascinating are the parallels. These two teams overcame very similar obstacles to get to the playoff with under-rated quarterbacks, back-up runners, play-making wideouts, and top-notch defenses. The NFL is made interesting not just by the on-field action, but by the story-lines that unfold right in front of us.

And so, it’s fitting that these teams will meet on Wildcard weekend. The Chiefs and Texans opened the season in Week One in Houston and now one of these franchises will see its season end after the dust has settled on the re-match. In Week One, the Chiefs held off a furious Texans comeback attempt en route to a 27-20 victory in Kansas City. The landscape of each teams has changed dramatically since then, but the Chiefs hope the result will stay the same. Meanwhile, the Texans are hungry for revenge, and chomping at the bit to make a statement.

Is this a battle of two of the more visible NFL franchises? No it isn’t. Will this game feature the most players who are recognized as household names? No it won’t. Will this be the highest-scoring game of the weekend? Unlikely. Will it be an exciting game featuring two of the NFL’s better stories of the 2015 season? Absolutely.

Only one of these improbable contenders can advance to the Divisional round and face either Denver or New England next week, but it would be a mistake to sleep on either team going forward. They are legitimate players in the AFC playoff picture, and this game is too close to call. It’s a shame one of these great stories has to come to an end, but this is football at it’s finest. What a way to kick off the post-season.