A rematch of the regular-season opener between the Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) and Houston Texans (9-7) will open the AFC playoffs in the Wild Card Round Saturday. Like the first meeting, the AFC South champion Texans will be small home underdogs versus the Chiefs, who won 27-20 before losing five games in a row both straight up and against the spread.
Point spread: The Chiefs opened as three-point favorites; the total was 41 early in the week, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)
NFL pick, via Odds Shark computer: 22.6-16.8 Texans
Why the Chiefs can cover the spread
Kansas City has put together a 10-game winning streak since its skid, going 7-3 ATS, and enters the playoffs as the NFL's hottest team. The Chiefs nearly won the AFC West and would have done so if the Denver Broncos lost in Week 17. Instead, they will visit NRG Stadium for the second time this season, trying to end an eight-game postseason losing streak and improve upon a 4-1 mark ATS in their past five trips there.
In the first meeting, Kansas City built a 27-6 lead in the second quarter at Houston before coasting to an easy victory. The Chiefs later lost running back Jamaal Charles for the season due to a torn ACL and have successfully replaced him with second-year player Charcandrick West, who finished with 634 yards and four touchdowns. West may be a step down from Charles, but he has still been fulfilling a much-needed role to help Alex Smith and the offense during their successful run.
Why the Texans can cover the spread
Houston has also been one of the hottest teams in the league, going 7-3 SU and ATS in the last 10 games to win the division over the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans have gone 4-1 SU and ATS in their last five home games, and they are coming off a 30-6 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars as 5.5-point favorites at Houston in the regular-season finale that clinched the AFC South.
While Houston has changed quarterbacks a few times since the first meeting with Kansas City, the team finally has the right guy back under center in Brian Hoyer, who returned to the lineup against the Jaguars after missing two games due to a concussion.
Ryan Mallett relieved Hoyer in the first game against the Chiefs but was waived following a missed flight before the team visited the Miami Dolphins in Week 7. T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden have also filled in for Houston, with the former tearing his ACL during a 16-10 road win over the Colts in Week 15. Hoyer is the best option.
The Texans were a very different team the last time they met Kansas City, starting the season with a 1-4 mark SU and ATS. They are 8-3 SU and ATS since then and appear to be live home dogs here, covering three of their last four playoff games. There's no doubt the Chiefs are better, too, but their playoff struggles will continue in another loss.
The Chiefs are 4-1 ATS in their last five games on the road against the Texans.
The Texans are 4-1 SU and ATS in their last five games at home.
The Chiefs are 10-0 SU and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games.
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