In the opinion of Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Ty Schalter (and every other member of our panel), the same team that prevailed 27-20 in Houston all the way back in Week 1:
Way back in July, I called 2015 a make-or-break year for Andy Reid with the Chiefs. He had the right mix of talent on offense and defense to challenge Denver for the AFC West title and win at least one playoff game (if not more). Halfway through the season, it was looking like "break"—but an incredible 10-game win streak has them right where I thought they'd be. Now, though, if they trip up against the "champion" Texans, it'll be fair to hold Reid accountable for yet another playoff failure. Fortunately for him, I don't see that happening.
In that game, Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith passed for 243 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, while Houston's Brian Hoyer completed barely half his passes en route to being benched.
ESPN.com's Adam Teicher thinks that edge under center could play a big part in the Chiefs' potentially ending an eight-game postseason losing streak:
Smith didn't have a career season for the Chiefs, though he did set a personal record for passing yardage with 3,486. But he had what was perhaps the best extended stretch of his career and certainly of his time in Kansas City over the season's final 10 games. Five times his passer rating was over 100 during the Chiefs' 10-game winning streak, and it was 99.9 in a sixth.
Smith also has playoff experience, having made two starts for the San Francisco 49ers in the 2011 playoffs and one for the Chiefs two seasons ago.
The Texans will counter with Brian Hoyer, who was benched this season before righting himself and improving. But Hoyer, discarded by four other teams before joining the Texans this year, will be making his first career playoff start.
Hoyer will also be without his blindside protector. As Deepi Sidhu of the team's website reported, left tackle Duane Brown is done for the season after injuring his quad in Houston's Week 17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
J.J. Watt told Sidhu the Texans are going to rally around their injured teammate:
It's such a terrible feeling to see a guy like that go down because you know how hard he works, you know how much it means to him. It's kind of a chance for us to rally around him. And you know go out there and say, "Let's win this one for Duane. Let's go out there and make sure we make him proud because we know how badly he wishes to be out there with us."
Of course, that's easy for Watt to say. He won't be the one tasked with stopping the Chiefs' best pass-rusher.
That would be Justin Houston, who practiced Tuesday, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid wouldn't confirm that Houston will play in Houston (see what I did there?), but Reid sounded optimistic.
"We'll just take it day by day," Reid said. "But I think he feels pretty good."
In a game with defenses this stout, one mistake—one turnover—can make all the difference.
And not only do the Chiefs have the second-fewest giveaways in the league this season, but they also have the second-best turnover differential at plus-14.
Chiefs: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
Texans: Look on the bright side. We got two unanimous picks wrong in Week 17 alone.