Breaking Down Every Potential Playoff Matchup for the Houston Texans
Last season, when the Houston Texans made the playoffs and clinched the division after a last-second touchdown pass throw by T.J. Yates, it was a time of joy and exuberance in Houston.
Texans' fans celebrated like it was 1999 (wow, sorry for the awful joke), and thousands of them gathered at Reliant Stadium to welcome home their beloved football team.
This season, when the Texans clinched a playoff berth, it was scarcely noticed. Players and fans gave it a nod of the head; then they continued about their business, for their teams had much bigger aspirations this season.
Super Bowl aspirations.
And in order to achieve this ultimate goal, the Texans must defeat several extremely tough and talented teams in the playoffs.
Here is every single potential playoff matchup for the Texans, and which teams hold the advantages in key categories.
New England Patriots
Currently, the majority of playoff predictions include the Texans and the Patriots squaring in the AFC Championship Game.
After the Patriots' schlacked the Texans on Monday night, Texans' fans must be hoping that this potential playoff matchup will be slightly closer.
The game would feature a team who has been among the AFC's elite for the past decade against an upstart team looking to establish themselves as a great NFL franchise.
Here is how the Texans would matchup against the Patriots.
Quarterback: While Matt Schaub is 15-1 in his past 16 games, Tom Brady is simply just too good. He is an extremely accurate quarterback who almost always makes the correct decisions. It is nearly impossible to slow down a Brady-led offense. Schaub is great, and he fits the Texans' offensive scheme perfectly, but the Patriots get the edge in this category.
Running Game: Stevan Ridley has been a revelation for the Patriots this season. His tough running has made the Patriots' offense nearly unstoppable combined with the efficiency of Brady. Although Ridley has been great, the Texans' running game is just that much better. The offensive line executes the zone-blocking scheme to perfection, and Arian Foster is an expert at using his impeccable vision to find the correct holes and cutback lanes, making the Texans' rushing offense nearly perfect.
Receivers: The edge here has to go to the Patriots. The combination of Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd make one of the most dangerous receiving cores in the NFL. While Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels are stars at their positions, the Texans do not have the combination of weapons that the Patriots have.
Defense: There are not many defenses in the NFL that can be compared to the vaunted Texans' Bulls on Parade defense, and the Patriots' defense is not one of the them. While the Patriots do lead the league in takeaways, they can allow an exorbitant amount of points and yards in games against talented offenses.
In a matchup earlier this season, the Texans defeated the Broncos by a score of 31 to 25. The final score, however, is not an indicator of how the majority of the game was played.
The Texans played excellent defense throughout the near entirety of the game, and they made Peyton Manning look confused and troubled. The Texans' offense dominated the game much like their defense had, and they carved up a Broncos' defense that had gained league renown after Tim Tebow's rise to fame.
In the last few minutes of the game, though, the Broncos attempted to pull off a desperate comeback, and they nearly succeeded. But the Texans managed to hang onto the game.
If the Broncos and Texans were to meet in the playoffs, it would likely be an exciting and heart-thumping rematch.
Here is how the Texans would matchup against the Broncos.
Quarterback: Although Schaub is certainly a top quarterback in the NFL, he is not in the upper echelon of quarterbacks that include Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and, of course, Peyton Manning. The Broncos' new quarterback seems to be just as great as he as always been. A healthy Manning can significantly alter any game he plays in, a trait that Schaub has not yet acquired.
Running Game: With Willis McGahee out, the nod here definitely has to be given to the Texans. Knowshon Moreno has filled in nicely for McGahee, but the rushing combination of Moreno, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman does not compare at all to Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Justin Forsett.
Receivers: Andre Johnson is a superstar wide receiver, but he is the Texans' only true receiving threat, aside from Owen Daniels. The Broncos, on the other hand, have two young stud receivers in Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. They both work extremely well with Manning, which creates an incredibly dangerous wide receiver, quarterback tandem.
Defense: In recent weeks, due to several key injuries, the Texans' defense has faltered. Normally, I would rank the Texans' defense over the Broncos' without a second thought, but given recent events, the prospective opponents are about equal to each other.
Unlike the Texans-Broncos game which ended up becoming extremely nerve-wracking, the Texans' game against the Ravens was a complete blowout.
The Texans' offense scored effortlessly on the supposedly dominant Ravens' defense, and Ray Rice and Joe Flacco were completely shut down by the Texans' defense.
The game was never close, but it is very likely that a playoff matchup between the two teams would be much more competitive.
Here is how the Texans would matchup against the Ravens.
Quarterback: The edge here has to go to Matt Schaub. Flacco is maddeningly inconsistent, while Schaub always steadily contributes to the offense.
Running Game: Both offenses feature two incredible running backs. Rice and Arian Foster always manage to impress, and the two can both single-handedly take over football games. Both teams are tied in this category.
Receivers: While I would take Andre Johnson over any of the Ravens' receivers, the problem is that Ravens have more than one capable receiver. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith can both be play-makers, while Kevin Walter rarely makes huge contributions to the offense in the receiving game.
Defense: In the latter half of the season, both defenses have severely struggled with injuries. Both have lost their leaders on defense in Brian Cushing and Ray Lewis, and both have been racked by injuries in the secondary. As a result, the two dominant defenses have begun to struggle. Right now, these two defensive units are tied.
The Texans AFC South division rivals, the Colts, surprisingly find themselves in a playoff spot. They have ridden rookie quarterback Andrew Luck to an incredible against-all-odds season.
The Colts finished last season with the worst record in the NFL, and now they are a competitive, dangerous football team.
Here is how the Texans would matchup against the Colts.
Quarterback: While Luck is more talented than Matt Schaub and may certainly have a much brighter future, the playoffs usually comes down to experience. Schaub has been in the league for a long, long time, in contrast to Luck who is in his rookie season. Furthermore, the Colts would have to play the Texans on the road, and Luck has struggled playing away from home this season. Edge to Schaub.
Running Game: The Texans easily get the edge in this category. The Colts have no rushing offense to speak of, while the Texans boast one of the best in the league.
Receivers: Once again, I will not choose the Texans' receivers. Andre Johnson is the only receiver who has consistently contributed on the team, and none of the other receivers have stepped up and become dependable targets for Schaub. On the Colts, however, young receivers like T.Y. Hilton and Donnie Avery are steadily contributing behind star receiver Reggie Wayne.
Defense: Despite the Texans' recent struggles, the Colts' defense has been even worse all season long. Once the Texans' secondary is fully healthy, they will be leagues ahead of the Colts' young and still learning defense.
With Roethlisberger, the Steelers appeared to be a dominant, offensively-talented football team that could compete with any team in the NFL. Without Roethlisberger, the Steelers stumbled and struggled, showing that they were much more vulnerable than originally believed.
Here is how the Texans would matchup against the Steelers.
Quarterback: Roethlisberger is actually one of the most entertaining quarterbacks to watch when he is on his game. He is tough and gritty, and he always seems to break tackles and slip out of the grasp of opposing defenders. Then, he constantly is able to roll out of the pocket and find a receiver for a huge gain. Matt Schaub is close to Roethlisberger's level, but I have to give the edge to the two-time Superbowl Champion.
Running Game: Every single game, the Texans attempt to establish their will on the ground. Arian Foster is a relentless punisher, and he never ceases to attack opposing defenses. Meanwhile, the Steelers have steered away from their rushing offense in recent seasons in favor of allowing Roethlisberger to sling the ball around to his talented receivers.
Receivers: Once again, the Texans are not given the edge in this category because they only have one receiver on their steam who steadily contributes. The Steelers, however, receive consistent contributions from Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
Defense: Both defenses have the ability to completely dominate football games. Both have excellent secondaries, when healthy, with dangerous pass rushers to boot. A tie here in this category.