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This Week in Football: A Chiefs comeback, a Texans disaster, Rodgers is back and more from the divisional round

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There’s a good chance we never see another game like this weekend’s Chiefs-Texans divisional round tilt.

The Texans did everything right to start the game while the Chiefs did everything wrong. Huston dominated on special teams while Kansas City melted down. Receivers were running free for one team while their counterparts couldn’t catch a cold. It was 21-0 after the first quarter, 24-0 mere moments into the second.

Then, on a dime, the script flipped. The Chiefs ended the game on a 51-7 run, capping off a 51-31 blowout win in historic fashion.

It was almost like a fever dream, except for the fact that the end result was completely believable.

Sure, it’s not a normal thing to be unsurprised that a team, regardless of who it is, could turn a blowout deficit into a blowout victory with apparent ease. But when you consider who leads one franchise compared to the other, it’s not all that outlandish.

Andy Reid has his flaws, to be sure, but he’s also one of the best offensive minds and best leaders the NFL has ever seen. His quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, is arguably the best in the game right now (and it’s an easy argument to make). With an offense as dynamic and disciplined as the Chiefs, it’s understandable that they would be prime candidates to put up a ton of points and to score quickly.

On the flip side, you have the Bill O’Brien led Texans, maybe the most disappointing or unfulfilling team in the NFL over the past several years. In the six years O’Brien has coached Houston, it’s won the AFC South four times. However, in that same stretch the Texans are the only team from that division to never play in the AFC Championship Game (the Colts did in 2014, the Jaguars in 2017 and the Titans this year).

His decision making is constantly questionable, which is as generous as it gets. Year after year the Texans find a way to do nothing productive with their talent, a trend which re-emerged on Sunday in conjunction with mind-numbing decisions.

Facing a fourth down and one early in the second quarter against the Chiefs, O’Brien decided to kick a field goal while leading by three touchdowns. It’s the kind of hyper conservative call that drives the NFL’s analytical movement up a wall, not to mention fans. The kick extended the lead, but you could instantly feel a momentum shift.

On the ensuing kickoff, Mecole Hardman returned the ball deep into Texans territory. The Chiefs then scored seven straight touchdowns from that point on.

While Houston was still leading in the second quarter, O’Brien also called for a fake punt while inside Texans territory.

It failed.

Credit is due to the Chiefs, who took advantage of every single the Texans made and punished them ruthlessly for each one. It was a clinic both offensively and defensively by Kansas City after the wretched, bizarre start. They picked up the kind of win that would make even the most cynical Chiefs fans feel a little vindicated for the franchise’s nearly countless postseason failures and disasters throughout history.

But there needs to be accountability in Houston. O’Brien is not the man for the job, something he made clear to the world once again this weekend.

Deshaun Watson is one of the best and most fun quarterbacks in the NFL a mere three years into his career. His time is being wasted, and more importantly the years in which he costs the least against the salary cap are being wasted. He’s still getting killed behind an offensive line that isn’t performing despite O’Brien (acting as general manager) shilling out huge prices to acquire pieces for that group.

Then there’s the defense, the unit he doesn’t directly control but that he’s still responsible for. Romeo Crennel has been his defensive coordinator since O’Brien took the job. In two of the last three years the Texans have finished deep in the bottom half of the NFL in defensive DVOA. That unit isn’t working, and if O’Brien refuses to change leadership for that group then he is ultimately responsible for its shortcomings.

To score 51 points in just three quarters is bordering on preposterous for any team. But to give up that many points while throwing away a big lead on a big stage is somehow fitting for the O’Brien era Texans. As long as he keeps them looking just good enough, though, expect to see more of the same (read: disappointment) from the Texans.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

*Why would you punt the ball back to Aaron Rodgers late in a game? The Seahawks did just that at the end of the second NFC divisional round game, giving the Packers the ball with just over three minutes to play. The Packers also had the lead at the time, and Rodgers was in the midst of one of his best games of the year. Seattle had plenty of questionable coaching decisions throughout Sunday’s game, but this was arguably the worst. Yes, the Seahawks were facing a fourth and long in their own territory, and still had three timeouts. They also gave the ball back to one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time who was on a heater. That’s not worth the risk, and Seattle got burned.

*You can’t use one game as an indictment of a player’s season. Lamar Jackson played phenomenally all year, doing enough to win first-team All-Pro honors. Then, for the second year in a row, he put up a lackluster postseason performance. There’s no getting around it, despite the big numbers he posted on Saturday he didn’t play well and it contributed to a Ravens loss to the Titans. It wasn’t the only factor, of course, but it was a significant element of the result. Even so, that one bad effort doesn’t mean that Jackson is overrated or a running back who plays quarterback or any nonsense like that. Things like Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle make instant takes (especially hot ones) easy to get off and perpetuate, but some perspective is important. Jackson is just 23 years old and just completed one of the most electrifying seasons in NFL history. One bad game, as important of a game as it was, doesn’t change how special of a player he is.

*Congratulations to the Browns for making an uninspired coaching hire. Kevin Stefanski is fine, but hiring a middling offensive coordinator who led a middling offense isn’t the best most to rally a fan base or a team. That’s especially true after said offensive coordinator’s unit was manhandled by another potential candidate, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, and his group just this weekend. Or, Cleveland also could have gone with Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who is still in the playoffs and is co-leading one of the best offenses in the league. Stefanski may work out just fine, and if he does that will be a godsend for the Browns. It’s just doesn’t seem like the best option on the market. Which, in a way, is almost more fitting for Cleveland.

BILL COWHER AND JIMMY JOHNSON DID WHAT THIS WEEK?

Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson became members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame this week. Not only that, but the two Super Bowl-winning coaches were informed that they were being inducted in touching moments in their respective studios.

First, it was Cowher on CBS during Saturday’s games.

Johnson then found out on Sunday on Fox, and that featured a beautiful shot of his former quarterback, Troy Aikman, getting emotional for his coach.

Watching the raw emotion from both Cowher and Johnson, paired with the love and support from their co-workers, was special to witness. Their speeches some up the meaning of the honor, and it was a cool move by the NFL to give fans a glimpse into such an intimate moment.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Multiple stats made the cut this week, all of them belonging to Derrick Henry. “Tractorcito” was the best running back in the NFL this season and has been arguably the best player in the playoffs so far. He’s been carrying the Titans on his back and making history in the process. In two games he already has the seventh most rushing yards ever in a single postseason, with a great shot to move way up the list this week.

And there’s so much more than that, too.

And, for good measure, a third milestone:

Henry has performed so well that Ryan Tannehill has only thrown for 160 yards combined over two weeks and Tennessee has won both games. That’s nearly unfathomable in today’s NFL. It’s impossible to know if he and the Titans can keep it up for another week (or more), but he’s been tremendous and it deserves recognition.

FOOTBALL FOLLIES

A four-time Pro Bowl linebacker got pancaked by a quarterback this weekend and it was awesome.

Sure, it wasn’t the strongest take down you’ll ever see, but Jimmy Garoppolo knocking down a player of Barr’s size and caliber is way more of a physical play than most quarterbacks are willing to get involved in. Mahomes and Rodgers both threw blocks on Sunday, but neither was anything like the pinnacle of pretty-boy quarterback stereotypes laying out a linebacker.

WEEKLY RANKING: EACH POTENTIAL SUPER BOWL MATCHUP

Usually we have a top-five ranking, but this week we’re ordering the four potential Super Bowl matchups by which ones will be most the most intriguing down to the least.

  1. Chiefs-49ers: This seems like an obvious choice, as it would pit arguably the two best teams in the NFL against one another for the top prize. It would give us a chance to see Patrick Mahomes and the electric Chiefs offense against the 49ers’ stout defense, plus the lowkey but effective San Francisco offense against the resurgent Kansas City defense. On paper, it’s the most desirable matchup.
  2. Chiefs-Packers: The gap between Nos. 1 and 2 here is small. While San Francisco has a better resume than Green Bay to this point, it’s hard not to get excited about a potential Patrick Mahomes versus Aaron Rodgers matchup, especially since we missed out on it when the teams faced earlier this year. Plus, it would be a rematch of Super Bowl I, a poetic way to end the 100th NFL season.
  3. Titans-Packers: The headliner, again: Rodgers. It comes down to quarterback star power in the bottom half of the list, and there’s no denying that seeing the future hall of famer go for his second ring would be a draw.
  4. Titans-49ers: The reason this game falls so far down the list is because the offensive styles don’t necessarily lend themselves to particularly exciting games, and there’s a lack of big names involved. That doesn’t mean it would be a good game, but it certainly sparks less interest on the surface.

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