Many don’t believe that the Houston Texans, winners of eight straight, are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. They have faced a slew of feeble opponents, but the Texans can’t help but to play against whoever is in front of them. The real knock on the Texans’ franchise record eight–game win-streak is how they handled their opponents. It was not until Monday Night against the Tennessee Titans that the Texans handled an opponent that has been struggling this season like a Super Bowl contender should.
As it stands in the AFC playoff race, the Houston Texans actually have the second highest strength of victory, defeating opponents with an average .461-win percentage. The highest strength of victory for the AFC is the #2 seed New England Patriots who have a .540-win-percentage amongst opponents defeated. Houston, who currently has the same win-loss record as New England, is in third due to the tie-breaker. However, with the easiest schedule remaining, the Texans have a real chance at earning a bye-week, and possibly home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Texans are the only team trending upwards. If last Monday night’s game is any indication, maybe the offense might be catching up to what the defense has been producing all year long, and the Texans will be the scariest team in the playoffs.
One question we should ask is, who are the Texans’ biggest threats going into the playoffs? We can start with one of the AFC’s big powerhouse names, the (7-3-1) Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers had been dealing with Le’Veon Bell’s drama all year long, but with the early success of James Conner, Pittsburgh had been steam-rolling through opponents. During the blowout game against the Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh defeated Carolina 52-21, and James Conner suffered a concussion. He was available the next game against the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars, but it took late game heroics from Ben Roethlisberger to stretch their win streak to 6. It is clear that James Conner is an important piece to this offense after his struggles in Jacksonville in what easily could have been a loss; he struggled again in Denver and the Steelers eventually fell to the 5-6 Broncos.
New England is having issues this year; they haven’t been the dominating juggernaut that we have been accustomed to seeing in years past. The aging Tom Brady is having an underwhelming season for New England standards. The Patriots rank 7th in offense. Red flags fly with this team after losses to the Lions, the Jags, and most recently to the Titans have this team as vulnerable as ever. Now that their former defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, left to be head coach of Detroit, their defense is a middle of the road.
The hottest team in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs, has been on fire throughout the year led by second-year QB Pat Mahomes, in essentially his first full year starting. This hot team is due for a slump, and no better time than now, with TMZ releasing footage of Kareem Hunt in an altercation with a female. The Chiefs just announced they have released the Pro Bowl running back and will have Spencer Ware replace him as the starter. It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs will fare offensively without Kareem who is currently fifth in rushing. Kareem was a big part of Kansas City’s potent 2nd-ranked offense, and it could expose the Chiefs’ biggest weakness, their 28th ranked defense.
With the AFC being this vulnerable, it is up to Houston to take advantage and utilize the most talented roster of the AFC and possibly the NFL. The recent passing of Houston Texans Owner Bob McNair inspired the Texans’ best victory so far this season, and may now possibly result in the first Super Bowl berth in Houston history.