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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 5:00 PM

Few would have imagined that the season opener featuring the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans would provide a sneak preview to the playoff opener this weekend in Wildcard action. Houston wasn’t supposed to win its division because AFC South rival Indianapolis was a consensus #2 pick in the whole AFC at the time!  Kansas City was on the radar…along with more than half of the conference.

Soon…both teams took a turn for the worse. Kansas City would start the season 1-5 before winning its last 10 games. Houston would suffer injuries and losses that made it clear that they weren’t a playoff caliber team. That still may be true, though the Texans have at least been playing very tough on defense in recent weeks.

Kansas City closed as a 1-point favorite in that first meeting, a game they would win by a 27-20 final count.  Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the rematch that will ignite the NFL postseason…


Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)

Kansas City: 11-5 (#14 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)

Houston: 9-7 (#26 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)

What jumps out there is obviously the fact that Houston played a very weak schedule. They’re probably not a playoff caliber team, but somebody had to win that pathetic division! Kansas City’s early schedule was brutal, while their late schedule was soft as cotton candy. That’s the big reason behind their late surge. They didn’t “get hot” so much as “take care of business” against inferior opponents. Handicappers will have to determine whether or not Houston is a cut-above those recent foes.


2015 Yards-Per-Play

Kansas City: 5.5 on offense, 5.1 on defense

Houston: 4.9 on offense, 5.0 on defense

Both teams have playoff caliber defenses. Kansas City is workmanlike on offense, while Houston has struggled badly with the ball most of the season. A healthy Brian Hoyer gives them a shot to outperform that awful 4.9 seasonal number. Tougher to do against a quality defense like KC’s. Very tough to make the case now that Houston is a playoff caliber team. They were -0.1 in per-play differential while playing a poor schedule. It will take the best of Houston to advance Saturday.


2015 Turnover Differential

Kansas City: +14

Houston: +5

Kansas City’s style of play helps them pull away from mistake-prone opponents, but keeps them from shining vs. quality. Low risk low reward usually doesn’t work that great in the playoffs! This is why it’s hard to see them as a Super Bowl threat even with that 10-0 finish. If you can only win by exploiting weaknesses, you have little hope when running into superior opponents. Important edge to KC in this matchup…but that +14 may actually be a strike against them down the road. Will they force turnovers from better opponents if they advance?


2015 Market Performance

Kansas City: 8-8 ATS

Houston: 9-7 ATS

Kansas City was actually 1-3 against the spread in its last four games even though they kept winning. The market was giving them too much credit. They couldn’t blow people out unless they were getting cheap points. If you look more closely, you’ll see some surprisingly bad yardage numbers in the final month. Houston covered its last three games (Indianapolis, Tennessee, and Jacksonville) and seven of its last nine games. So, the Texans were clearly underrated down the stretch against its soft slate. Will they be underrated when they step up in class? New England won on this field 27-6 a month ago. At least Kansas City’s not New England.


Current Line: Kansas City by 3, total of 40.5

The market has settled in on the key number for now. It takes a lot of money to move off the three. Favoring the Chiefs are that superior strength of schedule, more potent offense, and advantage in the risk/reward realm. Houston does have home field advantage, and the knowledge that the Chiefs won’t be able to pull away from them without cheap points off of turnovers. Can Houston play clean and score an upset? Both teams have weaknesses that can be exploited. Which weakness will matter most?

JIM HURLEY’S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach will cover this matchup from all angles. Our computer simulation programs have already been running around the clock since Wildcard Weekend was locked in. It’s likely we’ll have a strong side or total release coming on game day (pending future line movement of course!).

Be sure you’re with us this weekend for all the great football action (including Monday’s National Championship in the colleges!). In the meantime, build your bankrolls with nightly basketball. You can purchase JIM HURLEY’S BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about combination packages through the Super Bowl or March Madness, please call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

More big-game previews coming up here in the NOTEBOOK through the week…

Thursday: NFL Wildcard Preview…Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

Weekend: NFL Wildcard Preview…Green Bay at Washington

Monday: College Football CHAMPIONSHIP Preview…Alabama vs. Clemson

The championship chase is heating up. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!


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