The regular season has only been over for a few days, but it might as well be ancient history. With playoff football kicking off on Saturday the next phase of the NFL season officially starts. And while many of the storylines from the year will carry over, ultimately it doesn’t matter. That’s the thing about playoff football; no matter what you did over the 17-week season, it all comes down to what’s ahead.
Just ask the Houston Texans.
After being the talk of the town for much of the year, Houston eventually slipped to 12-4 and relinquished a home field spot that they appeared to have locked up. The Texans still get to play at home against a far-from-perfect Bengals squad, but must be feeling disappointed after great season was overshadowed by underwhelming performances.
Although every statistic and logical argument would dictate that every team would want a first-round bye, I would argue to the contrary for Houston. As disappointing as their season seems, the Texans had such a good year that they made the playoffs with the AFC’s 3rd seed and still feel like they underachieved. The NFL is all about momentum, though, and Houston is desperately lacking in this area.
And that is why I think the Texans’ best legitimate shot is to play a first round game. The Denver Broncos are riding an 11-game win streak into the postseason while the Patriots have won nine of their last ten. If Houston had a week off to think about the ugly losses to Minnesota and Indianapolis to end the year, I can’t help but believe it wouldn’t exactly be a confidence builder. No rank or seed could make the Texans forget that their four losses have come by a combined 75 points.
A team of the Texans’ caliber is interested in winning the Super Bowl, and every statement out of Houston this season has only confirmed that. Houston is going into the playoffs about as feebly as a 12-4 team can, and a statement win over the Bengals is exactly what they need to keep those hopes alive. The Texans’ recent play has them getting brushed off by every NFL pundit on television, and a game against a weaker opponent is precisely what they need to build their confidence and get ready to go to Foxborough and take on Tom Brady and Co.
Even if Houston would have eked out a victory over the Colts in week 17, they couldn’t have been feeling very good about the way their season ended. A first round game may be the best thing that Houston could ask for because if they can soundly defeat the Bengals, they will put themselves back into Super Bowl consideration and build their confidence for an all-important road playoff game. A loss will just confirm that they never had what it took to begin with.