I'm a huge boxing fan, and in boxing they have a saying that "styles make fights." What that means is that no matter the records two boxers may hold, you need to know how their particular boxing styles match up before you can make an educated guess not only about who will win, but if it will even be an entertaining bout.
The same theory can apply to football games. For as long as the game has been around there have been teams that look like underdogs on paper that end up upsetting teams that look superior, primarily because the underdog usually has one or more areas that create a matchup problem for the favorite. Other times, the teams look evenly matched, but one team's matchup problem is enough of an advantage that they end up getting #blowded out. The playoffs this year will be no different.
As I looked at the upcoming Wild Card Game between the Chiefs and the Texans this weekend, there is one area where I believe the Chiefs will present enough of a matchup problem with the Texans that the game could get out of hand quickly: the Chiefs' pass rush.
Specifically, the Kansas City's rush linebackers. Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Frank Zombo and Dee Ford are going to be champing at the bit to get after a Houston offensive line that will be missing standout left tackle Duane Brown, who injured his quad last week against the Jaguars. Brown's backup, Chris Clark, is in his fifth year in the league and actually started in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago for the Broncos. The Texans acquired him this August in a trade with Denver that turned out to be pretty damn fortuitous.
The problem is that Clark is a big punch guy. He sells out with his punch right away at the snap in hopes of knocking the edge rusher off balance, ruining their rush before it can get started. That's cool when you are going to against pass rushers with poor technique, but Hali and Houston are very adept at using their hands to keep offensive linemen from being able to connect with their punches.
Justin Houston using his moves (via Cincy Jungle).
They are also good at simultaneously using their footwork to side step that offensive lineman and leave him standing in the same spot stuck on stupid. Zombo also has pretty good technique. Ford isn't quite there yet with his skill set, but he is getting better at it every day learning from the likes of Hali and Houston.
Only one guy can rush that side on any given play, and the right side is where you will usually find Hali pass rushing. I would imagine that by the game's end you will have seen all four guys line up on the right at one point or another and get at least a few reps against Clark.
If Houston is healthy after missing the final five weeks of the season with a knee injury, Texans right tackle Derek Newton is going to have his hands full, as well. Even if Houston isn't healthy, Ford has been coming on strong of late, so I'd expect him to give Newton the business, too.
Now, games are not played on paper, so there is a chance that the Chiefs pass rushers won't be a deciding factor in that game. I would put that chance at somewhere between slim and none. I fully expect the Chiefs to get pressure on Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer early and often.
I will repeat my prediction that pressure forces Hoyer into throwing a pick to the Chiefs' fantastic rookie corner, Marcus Peters, before the game is over. My key to victory for the Chiefs is to sack Hoyer at least four times. If they do, I believe they will win this game and it won't be very close at all.
Spoiler, I'm pretty sure they will.