KUBIAK’S PARTING GIFT SHOULD HELP TEXANS SATURDAY

For The Record- Joe Kazmar

When the Denver Broncos defeated the Oakland Raiders 24-6 in Sunday’s final game of the 2016 National Football League season, two teams ended up doing cartwheels.
The Kansas City Chiefs, who finished the season with the same identical 12-4 record as the Raiders, were declared the winners of the AFC West Division by virtue of winning both regular-season meetings with Oakland.
The Houston Texans were relieved to play the quarterback-less Raiders rather than the red-hot Chiefs in Saturday’s opening-round of the NFL playoffs.
The Broncos, who also were minus a seasoned quarterback this season, were a major disappointment, missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record as the defending world champions.
But Head Coach Gary Kubiak, who announced his retirement for health reasons last week, went out on a winning note and probably didn’t realize what a favor he did for his old team.
The Texans, who fortunately didn’t have anything to play for Sunday that would affect their AFC South Division championship, played like they didn’t care about the outcome of their season finale at Tennessee that they lost 24-17 Sunday. And for the third straight year under Head Coach Bill O’Brien, Houston finished with a 9-7 record.
However, the Texans won the games that really counted by winning every division game until Sunday, which was the difference as Tennessee also finished 9-7 but didn’t win as many division contests.
The Houston-Oakland game kicks off the 2016 NFL Wild Card playoffs 3:35 p.m. Saturday at NRG Stadium in Houston with the Texans an early 3½-point favorite.
Both teams apparently have the same problem—a question at the quarterback position. Oakland lost its starter, Derek Carr, two weeks ago when he suffered a broken leg and was replaced by Matt McCloin, who left Sunday’s game with an injury. As of early this week the only healthy quarterback is rookie Connor Cook.
The Texans switched quarterbacks two weeks ago when ineffective starter Brock Osweiler was yanked from the game against lowly Jacksonville trailing 13-0 and replaced by back-up Tom Savage. Houston came back to win the game 21-20 and Savage seemed to win the starting quarterback job.
Savage had a very lackluster performance the next week against Cincinnati but the Texans managed to win 12-10.
And during another poor performance in the first quarter Sunday after he fumbled into the end zone on the third play of the game and gave Tennessee an easy touchdown, Savage dove into the line on a quarterback sneak and suffered a possible concussion and was replaced by Osweiler.
Although Savage was cleared by team doctors, O’Brien opted to leave Osweiler in the game. The “72 million dollar man” did a creditable job although the Texans lost 24-17.
Houston and Oakland played each other in Mexico City on Nov. 21. Osweiler did a good job, building up a 20-13 lead in the fourth period only to have the defense blow it, allowing Carr to throw two touchdowns to lead Oakland to a 27-20 win.
Now the big question mark at this writing is who will the starting quarterbacks be for both teams?
Despite who the quarterbacks will be in the wild card game, I look for it to be a low-scoring defensive battle with the Texans winning 16-14.
Wouldn’t it be something if the playoffs begin with the Houston Texans playing the opening game at NRG Stadium and end 29 days later with the Texans playing there in February??
KWICKIES…We heard so many college coaches complaining about certain All-American football players who opted to skip his team’s bowl game because they wanted to be in tip-top shape for the upcoming NFL scouting combine and be high draft choices in April. How about these same coaches who abandon their teams for the bowl games, pack up and vamoose for their new job, leaving their team to flounder under some assistant. Something’s not right here!!!
Almost every article about the upcoming playoffs mentions the fact the Seattle Seahawks will have a more difficult time on defense because of the absence of free safety Earl Thomas, who’s rehabilitating from a broken bone in his leg. Seattle also plays Saturday at home against the Detroit Lions. Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. on NBC.
Six of the playoff bound teams have quarterbacks who have been to a Super Bowl—Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC. From the NFC are Eli Manning of the New York Giants, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. But all of the talk seems to be focused on rookie Dak Prescott of the NFC’s No. 1-seeded Dallas Cowboys.
And speaking of the Cowboys, although they sat out several starting players Sunday at Philadelphia and lost to the Eagles 27-13, all of the headlines went to Tony Romo, who made a cameo appearance and threw for the Cowboys’ only touchdown. Many dyed-in-wool Cowboy fans are itching for a quarterback controversy, but I doubt if they will get one.
Monday’s big battle between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game should be a hard-hitting defensive battle with Clemson coming out on top 23-19.
JUST BETWEEN US… Here’s a look at the Wild Card Round of the playoffs:
Sat. 3:35 p.m. at NRG Stadium in Houston—Houston (9-7) over Oakland (12-4). I look for the 3½-point favored Texans to win in a defensive battle 16-14. (ESPN)
Sat. 7:15 p.m. in Seattle—Seattle (10-5-1) over Detroit (9-6). This game should light up the scoreboard to the tune of 34-26 with the 8-point favored Seahawks winning. (NBC)
Sun. 12:05 p.m. at Heinz Stadium in Pittsburgh—Pittsburgh (11-5) over Miami (10-6). The Steelers are a whopping 10-point favorite and should overpower the Dolphins 31-22. (CBS)
Sun. 3:40 p.m. at Lambeau Field in Green Bay—Green Bay (9-6) over New York Giants (11-5). I believed it when quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the Packers were going to run the table seven weeks ago. This could very well be a high-scoring affair with Rodgers finding a way to beat the 4 ½-point underdog Giants 38-31. (Fox)