Much like every team that faces the New England Patriots in the postseason, the Texans are considered underdogs. Vegas has the Patriots favored by 9.5 points, and Houston faces the longest odds to reach the Super Bowl at 18-to-1.
Couple the odds with an insulting column from the Boston Globe, and the Texans might be the most prolific underdog in the playoffs.
Consider that they were the AFC’s best team until Week 17, when both New England and the Denver Broncos leapfrogged them in the rankings.
They’ve made the trip to Foxborough already this season, resulting in the Week 14 42-14 trouncing. So there is precedent for siding with New England over Houston this season.
But the Texans have bounced back from their end-of-season slide, eking out a tough victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card.
Wade Phillips’ defense limited the explosive Bengals offense to just 198 yards and no TDs. If it weren’t for a bad decision and throw by Matt Schaub early in the second quarter, it wouldn’t have been a close game.
New England averages 34.8 points a game, while the Texans average 26. Needless to say, the Texans don’t put up points like New England does, but they do shut quarterbacks down.
Cornerback Johnathan Joseph is playing some of the best football of his career, and he’ll no doubt be splitting time between New England’s big playmakers, Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker (no matter what Phillips says).
Joseph defended two passes and had a 14-yard interception return in the game against Cincinnati.
Key to the Texans beating Brady, however, is J.J. Watt. The second-year DE is making a run for Defensive Player of the Year with 20.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and 20 passes defended.
Watt didn’t have his best game against New England, recording just two tackles, two assists and a forced fumble. Familiarity with the offensive line will provide him the edge Watt needs to be his usual, dominant self.
With their best players doing what they do best, the Texans defense will keep Brady away from another Super Bowl appearance.