Here's a look at the two AFC divisional-round playoff games this weekend:
Houston Texans (10-7) at the New England Patriots (14-2)
Game time: 8:15 p.m., Saturday
Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.
Player to watch: Patriots QB Tom Brady. All he did this season was go 11-1, complete 67.4 percent of his passes for 3,554 yards and throw 28 touchdowns and only two interceptions -- all after serving his four-game DeflateGate suspension, of course.
The matchup: The Houston Texans have the NFL's No. 1 defense, which is impressive considering they've done it without J.J. Watt, but they're an offensive mess and got lucky to draw a first-round playoff matchup against a Raiders team that was down to its third-string quarterback. The Patriots, meanwhile, are their usual powerhouse selves -- strong everywhere, particularly on offense and especially since Brady's return. They are also only giving up 15.6 points per game -- tops in the league.
How they got here: The Patriots won the AFC East for the eighth straight season, and for the 13th time in 14 years. They also earned the No. 1 seed in the conference and a first-round bye. … The Texans won the AFC South and finished as the No. 4 seed. They then beat the injury-riddled Oakland Raiders last Saturday, 27-14, in a game where the Raiders were without starting quarterback Derek Carr and were forced to ride rookie Connor Cook making his first NFL start.
Prediction: There's no way around it: The Texans are lucky to have gotten this far. With their mess of an offense, and struggling quarterback Brock Osweiler, they likely would've lost to any team other than the Raiders last weekend -- and they surely would've lost if the Raiders had Carr. Yes, they have that No. 1 defense -- as if that's likely to help much against Brady. Even if it does, the Patriots have the No. 1 scoring defense so you can't expect the Texans to score much at all. So barring a shock, the Patriots should continue their DeflateGate Revenge Tour and roll into the AFC championship game for the sixth straight year. … Patriots 30, Texans 9.
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5) at the Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
Game time: 8:20 p.m. Sunday
Location: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City
Player to watch: Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell. He ran for 1,268 yards and caught 75 passes for 616 yards despite missing four games. And in the wild-card game against the Dolphins he was unstoppable on the ground, gaining 167 yards and scoring two touchdowns while averaging 5.8 yards per carry.
The matchup: The Steelers have the potential to be an offensive juggernaut when their Big Three gets going. Bell is probably the best running back in football and Antonio Brown (106-1,284-12) is one of the best receivers in the NFL. And Ben Roethlisberger is still in the top tier of quarterbacks when he's healthy. When those three get going, the Steelers are a dangerous, two-pronged offensive machine that's hard to stop. Meanwhile, the Chiefs don't do anything particularly great on offense but don't make a lot of mistakes and are so well-coached by Andy Reid. Their defense, meanwhile, is a turnover machine (18 interceptions for a Chiefs team that was plus-16 overall in turnover ratio). And there is no more dangerous return man in the NFL these days than their incomparable rookie, Tyreek Hill.
How they got here: The Chiefs won the AFC South and got a first-round bye after finishing with the No. 2 seed in the AFC. … The Steelers won the NFC North and finished as the No. 3 seed, then pounded the Miami Dolphins, 30-12, in Pittsburgh in the wild-card round last Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: The key to this game is probably the Steelers' ability to limit game-changing plays -- like interceptions and big returns. If they can contain Hill on kick returns and Roethlisberger can avoid the big interception, the Steelers should be able to score more than enough points. That might be an issue for Roethlisberger, who isn't exactly on an Aaron Rodgers-like run. He's thrown four interceptions in his last two games and in his last five starts he's got eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. Still, those weapons … The combo of Brown and Bell is hard to beat, especially since Bell is such a reliable outlet for the passing game, too. Bell alone, facing a Chiefs rushing defense that gave up 121.1 yards per game in the regular season (26th overall) could be enough to keep the Steelers' offense humming. If nothing else, that should help keep the ball out of Roethlisberger's hands enough to limit his mistakes. … Steelers 26, Chiefs 21.