As a Texans fan, I really shouldn’t bother watching Saturday’s playoff game against the Patriots.
This is the biggest mismatch in NFL playoff history. The Patriots don’t even have to cheat to win this one. They could over-inflate the balls, and still breeze by three touchdowns.
That’s what the experts have been saying all week, anyway.
Which means what, exactly? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
To co-opt a favorite line of Charles Barkley, “The only expert is God.”
To that, the pundits would respond — even God knows the Texans have no prayer. And let me make this perfectly clear: the Patriots are heavily favored, and they should be. They very likely will win. Perhaps convincingly.
But, last time I checked, this is still pro sports isn’t it? Not only sports but football, which features a pointy, oblong-shaped ball that routinely takes the funny bounces one might expect a pointy, oblong-shaped ball to take.
Not only football, but the NFL — the league where Nothing Forever Lasts. Stuff we never thought would happen sometimes does. (It’s happened before). That’s why they call them upsets. They upset the order of things we know to be true and right.
Some unbending truths — the Patriots are the top seed in the playoffs, the prohibitive favorite to win a fifth Lombardi Trophy under Misters Belichick and Brady. Moreover, they — not Bob McNair — own the Texans. Houston has never won in Foxborough. In eight all-time meetings with New England, they are 1-7 and have lost by an average score of 33-18. In their last two meetings, including one earlier this season, Houston has mustered only six points. Total. In both games.
That’s been an issue for the Texans more than ever this year. In Houston, where it’s always allergy season, Bill O’Brien’s team has appeared allergic to the end zone. They rank 28th in the NFL in scoring, and have produced just 25 offensive touchdowns in 17 games.
It’s the textbook definition of a mismatch. The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy called it a matchup of the “Pats and the Patsies” in one of his two columns this week declaring the Texans had zero chance to win.
So, the smart money is on New England, right? Wrong. The smart money never passes into a bookie’s hands, and thus continually stays in one’s possession.
This is sports, where the unbelievable happens about once a week. Are we really saying that a 10-7 NFL team has absolutely no chance to beat a 14-2 NFL team? That the Patriots are unbeatable, or at least unbeatable against Houston?
That is moronic. Makes me wonder if the pundits shouldn’t undergo the league’s concussion protocol. I wouldn’t rule out a 3-13 team beating a 14-2 team. Not completely, anyway. These guys aren’t kids, they’re pros. Even the bums strike it rich on occasion.
The Patriots themselves once lost a Super Bowl (and a chance at a perfect season) when a double-digit underdog had a guy catch the ball with his hat.
And yet we’re supposed to believe they’re somehow impervious to oddity.
It may take a perfect game, but Houston has a shot. It may be an obstructed-view, 1,000-yard, Chris Kyle-type sniper shot, but it’s a shot.
Don’t forget that the Texans boast the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL. Last time I checked, football people thought defense kind of mattered. And that was without J.J. Watt in the lineup nearly the entire season.
The lights came on this year for Jadeveon Clowney, who has emerged as a 100-Watt bulb. Against all odds, Brian Cushing has stayed healthy. Vegas would have given you 200-to-1 odds on that development before the year. And Romeo Crennel understands how to craft a defensive game plan.
Ah, but the real mismatch is at quarterback. Brady versus Brock. That’s about as fair as a cat and a ball of yarn. One guy has four Super Bowl rings, the other threw four interceptions before you finished reading this sentence.
Anyone who has watched the Texans this year knows that Osweiler had a lower rating than the CW. He has not been good. He’s been somewhere far south of good. That’s why O’Brien benched him for the final two games of the regular season, in favor of unproven Tom Savage.
Yet anyone with eyes can’t deny this fact either: Osweiler has a big-time arm. He can flick it from here to Galveston. It’s his decision-making (and accuracy) that still need work.
But, personally, I think it’s too soon to give up on the kid. The Texans have too much invested (time and money) to pull the plug after one season. Moreover, they still have Savage waiting in the wings, if necessary. And, let’s face it, if they are going to pull off one of the all-time great upsets on Saturday, they’re going to need to ugly up the game. Osweiler has a pretty-boy look, but knows how to win ugly. For all his struggles this year, he’s still 9-6 as the Texans’ starting QB. (Savage is 1-1).
All logic, all the stats, all the past history, all conventional wisdom, all of it favors the Patriots. And if things follow convention, they’ll win.
All I’m saying is that it’s not a foregone conclusion. It’s been suggested that the only guarantees in life are death and taxes, yet to that idea I’d offer up Keith Richards and Donald Trump. One guy has dodged death, the other his taxes. Go figure. Even the IRS and the Grim Reaper aren’t a given.
In preparing for this column, I stumbled onto an internet message board for NFL fans. Like everyone else, these people expect a bloodbath. One guy described the matchup as a David and Goliath affair, with the big, bad Pats playing the role of the towering Goliath.
Ummm … have people forgotten who actually won that battle?