Words That Help
Houston may be all caught up in the first playoff berth in Texans' history, but NBC commentator Tony Dungy isn't buying in.
Dungy expects the Texans' maiden voyage in the postseason to be a short one. The former Indianapolis Colts coach predicts that Houston will lose in the first round to the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday afternoon at Reliant Stadium.
When Dungy made the remarks on NBC's last Sunday Night Football broadcast of the season, fellow commentator Rodney Harrison disagreed saying, he liked the Texans at home. It is Dungy's words that probably sounded sweeter to Houston coach Gary Kubiak though. For Kubiak's used the doubts of outsiders to add some extra fuel to this Texans' historic 10-6 season throughout the year.
You can bet that Kubiak will have the Texans convinced that the whole world — and not just Dungy — is doubting them. He wouldn't be that far off either.
After the injury-riddled Texans beat the then playoff-desperate Atlanta Falcons 17-10 at Reliant in Week 13, it came out that Kubiak harped on the fact that Houston — then tied for first place in the entire AFC — was made an underdog in its own stadium by the odds makers in meetings with his players. Player after player cited that slight as giving them a little extra push in the win.
Professional athletes, like most human beings, aren't quite as complicated as you think. They take umbrage at being dissed and a smart coach knows how to use that.
The Texans are a favorite in Las Vegas, albeit a slight one (two and half points), in their first playoff game. Houston already's beaten Cincinnati this season — on the road. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton — the red-headed rookie from Katy — is fighting the flu, missing practice because of it Wednesday. More importantly, Cincinnati's game-changing wide receiver A.J. Green has been hampered by a shoulder injury that's limited him to two catches for less than 30 yards each of the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, Texans Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph — the $50 million free agent who makes Wade Phillips' Miracle Defense possible — who figures to be matched up one-on-one on Green most of the game (again) is rested, having taken last Sunday off to help heal a bothersome ankle.
And yet, you can bet that Kubiak will have the Texans convinced that the whole world — and not just Dungy — is doubting them. He wouldn't be that far off either. Well many of the national pundits may pick the Texans to squeak by an unremarkable 9-7 Bengals team at home, almost no one is expecting them to go farther than that.
If Houston wins it will have to play at 12-4 Baltimore in the second round. The Ravens just happen to be Dungy's pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
"(No. 1 seed New England's) defense scares me," Dungy said. "I'm going with Baltimore."
To make the AFC Championship Game, the Texans will have to prove the ex-coach who tormented them for years in the AFC South (along with a guy named Peyton Manning) wrong, not once, but twice. Sounds about right.
"I don't mind when people don't expect us to do anything," Texans defensive end Antonio Smith said after the Texans' lost 23-22 to the Titans while playing second, third and fourth stringers. "We dealt with that most of season and we thrived off it.
"Go ahead and pick somebody else. We'll just lay back in the weeds."
Smith knows that can be a good place to be — and not just because he studies ninjas. This eighth-year vet played for the 2008 Arizona Cardinals team that limped into the playoffs having lost five of its last seven games to finish 9-7. A Cardinals squad that many dismissed as one of the worst playoff teams of all-time heading into the postseason.
That team ended up in the Super Bowl.
Dungy did the Texans a favor. Expect Kubiak to take advantage of it in every way possible.