Common sense tells you the Houston Texans have no shot against New England. They're going to a place where they were drilled a month ago, they have a quarterback few people outside the 713 area code trust and they're taking on an opponent ... a future Hall of Fame quarterback, for crying out loud ... that almost never loses at home in January.
Hmmmm, I think we've heard this before.
Oh, yeah, it's the 2010 New York Jets all over again, and if I'm Houston coach Gary Kubiak I place a call today to the Jets' Rex Ryan and ask how in the world he pulled off the unthinkable when he surprised the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Like Houston, Ryan's Jets were waxed at Gillette Stadium in December and seemingly in line for a second thumping. Only it never occurred. They won with a script I suggest Houston follow if the Texans are to have a ghost of a chance.
Look, I don't think the upset happens, either. As far as I'm concerned, whatever the line is -- and it's 9 1/2 points -- it can't be high enough. That's how much I think of Tom Brady, and how little I think of Matt Schaub. But that's the same scenario that played itself out two years ago.
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The Jets were 9-1/2 point dogs. They were coming off a narrow playoff defeat of Indianapolis. They had the league's fourth-ranked rushing attack and a top-five defense that forced turnovers, produced sacks and kept opponents close. They also had a club that was hammered five weeks earlier in Foxborough, 45-3.
Now fast forward to Sunday. Houston has Arian Foster and the league's eighth-ranked running game. It has a reliable defense that forces turnovers, produces sacks and keeps opponents close. And, like New York two years before them, the Texans got smoked in Foxborough.
But the Jets pulled the upset, and pay attention, Houston.
They won with defense, flummoxing Brady by rushing three or four, blanketing his receivers and forcing him into atypical misfires and mistakes. In fact, Brady was so rattled he was outplayed by Mark Sanchez, who threw three touchdown passes and led the Jets to their second straight conference championship game.
"You work all week on one thing," a disappointed Wes Welker said afterward, "and then you get something different."
Huh? According to the Patriots' wide receiver, New England expected the Jets to do what they'd done before, which is play man-to-man coverage. Instead, they mixed their defenses, disguised coverages and threw in a lot of zone packages. Result: They confused Brady and sacked him five times.
"I think we got him frustrated," said cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
That's only because they did, and I suggest defensive coordinator Wade Phillips listen up. Phillips isn't known as a guy who experiments, takes risks and implements completely different looks when he faces an opponent a second time within two months.
But he might want to try here.
After all, it worked for Ryan. Plus, Phillips' defense didn't do so well the first time around when Brady shredded it with four touchdown passes. I know, linebacker Brooks Reed didn't play, and cornerback Johnathan Joseph was limited, but that's no excuse for what happened -- and what happened was a beatdown.
The Texans' only hope Sunday is to attack New England as the Jets did -- with their defense. Schaub is not going to do it. I've seen enough of him lately to know I don't trust him in big games. Maybe Foster is the ticket, but I'm skeptical. The Patriots allow opponents an average of 3.9 yards per carry -- sixth best in the league -- and surrendered only five runs of 20 or more yards.
Nobody was better.
So that leaves it up to J.J. Watt and the Houston defense. It shut down Cincinnati a week ago, blanking the Bengals on nine third downs, and maybe, just maybe, it can slow down New England now.
All I know is that it worked once for the New York Jets. Houston can only hope it works again.