Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Houston Texans (9-7)
The Chiefs are favored by 3.5 points here in Houston. It’s not hard to understand why that’s the case. The Texans are seen as a team that’s only in the playoffs by default, after winning the weak NFC South; they’ve also already lost to the Chiefs at home this season, 27-20 back in week 1.The Chiefs, meanwhile, are seen as a legitimate team, coming into the playoffs with an 11-5 record and a 10 game winning streak. Despite the fact that the Chiefs are favored by more than a field goal on the road, when close to 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less, the public is still all over Kansas City.
They seem to be falling into the odds makers’ trap, as they often do. I think the Texans are actually the better team here. Like the Chiefs, they survived a rough start and got better as the season went on, starting 2-5 and winning 7 of their next 9 games. Like the Chiefs, they’ve gotten better as the season has gone on, largely because quarterback Brian Hoyer has stabilized the quarterback position, and they’ve quietly become a legitimately tough team to face in the playoffs. A strong defense has led them to a 7th place rank in rate of moving the chains differential and they’re a better offense with Brian Hoyer, as they’ve moved the chains at a 70.11% rate in the 11 games Hoyer has led them in pass attempts, as opposed to 68.57% in their other 5 games. The Chiefs, meanwhile, rank 8th in rate of moving the chains differential, which is impressive, but this line is way off.
It’s true that the Chiefs did win 27-20 in Houston earlier this year, but I think the public has gotten too caught up in that. Teams are 29-14 ATS since 1989 in the playoffs in a same season, same site, non-divisional rematch against a team that beat them previously. The Chiefs’ 10 game winning streak is another thing the public seems to have gotten too caught up in, as teams are 10-21 ATS in the playoffs on a 7+ game winning streak, including 6-17 ATS as favorites. The Chiefs are overrated and I’ll gladly take the points. The Texans have some key injuries to left tackle Duane Brown and outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, while the Chiefs get outside linebacker Justin Houston back from a 5 game absence, but the Chiefs are missing their other starting outside linebacker Tamba Hali and center Mitch Morse is expected to join him. There’s still enough here to make Houston my top pick this week.
Houston Texans 17 Kansas City Chiefs 13 Upset Pick +150
Pick against the spread: Houston +3.5
Confidence: Pick of the Week