Why the Houston Texans Quietly Have Best Defense in 2012 NFL Playoffs

Adam OdekirkContributor IIJanuary 8, 2012

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 7: Defensive end Antonio Smith #94 of the Houston Texans celebrates teammate defensive end J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans sack against quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the second quarter during the 2012 AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Reliant Stadium on January 7, 2012 in Houston, Texas.The Texans defeated the Bengals 31-10.  (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

Flying under the radar is a huge advantage in the NFL playoffs. Whether it's an offense, a defense or an entire team, the element of surprise can always be a valuable weapon in January.

The usual topic of conversation when the Texans are mentioned is their injury woes and the rookie quarterback that they have leading them in the playoffs.

What isn't often mentioned is their defense, under highly regarded coordinator Wade Phillips, that has made one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history—and all without Pro Bowler Mario Williams for a majority of the season.

Another shrewd decision that was made by the Houston Texans was avoiding the overpayment of Nnamdi Asomugha, and instead setting their sights on players like Johnathan Joseph and Daneal Manning that have made a huge impact.

The decision to draft JJ Watt is also now starting to pay dividends, as it may have been Watt's pick-six that spurred the team to victory more than any other play.

Houston is a young team all around, on both offense and defense, but they are well coached and their inexperience has never been something that has hurt them.

Gary Kubiak and his staff have done a great job of tailoring their game plans to the strengths of their players, and now, with young stars like JJ Watt and Brooks Reed making an impact, Wade Phillips is able to open up the playbook even further than before.

One of the biggest things going for the Texans defense though, is the fact that the Ravens are likely focusing all of their attention on trying to gain an advantage over the Texans offense and neglecting the fact that their defense can be just as big of a game changer.

HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 11:  Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips at Reliant Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Houston, Texas. The Texans won 34-7.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

There is not a lot of star power on this Texans defense, but it may be that fact which allows them to soak in all of the coaching that Phillips and company are able to offer.

Another benefit is that opponents don't have the experience of having faced this defense as frequently as other perennial playoff contenders. Teams like the Steelers, Ravens and Patriots all know each other very well come January in terms of defensive strategy.

The Texans, however, are still a relative wild card in terms of what opponents can expect from them.

A mix of talent, great coaching, the element of surprise and the benefit of not knowing that they shouldn't be as good as they are make the Houston defense as dangerous as any in the playoffs.