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Milt Northrop’s Playbook: It’s a dog’s life on the home front in the AFC

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Aretha Franklin sang about it. Rodney Dangerfield joked about it.

Two NFL division champions aren’t getting a lot of it looking ahead to Saturday’s two wild-card playoff games in the AFC. The two home teams, the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals, are betting underdogs, according to the oddsmakers. Why? Check out the experience factor.

The Texans go into the game with a quarterback and head coach who are both playoff rookies. It will be the first postseason start for Houston quarterback Brian Hoyer and the first for head coach Bill O’Brien. They go against Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith and coach Andy Reid, who have plenty of postseason experience and a lot of it successful.

By now half the world must know the Buffalo Bills have gone 16 years without making the playoffs. Just as universal is the knowledge that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis never has coached a postseason victory. He’s 0-6. Cincinnati goes against Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who have Super Bowl titles on their resumes.

Wild-card teams should not be easily dismissed as championship timber, either. Nine wild cards have gone on to win the Super Bowl since 1980. None has won it, however, since a three-year run (2010-2012) by Green Bay, the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens.

A capsule look at Saturday’s AFC wild-card games:

Chiefs (11-5) at Texans (9-7)

TV: ABC, ESPN, 4:35 p.m.

The line: Chiefs (-3½).

The scoop: Kansas City has not won a playoff game on the road since Joe Montana led a 28-20 win over the Oilers in the Houston Astrodome Jan. 16, 1994. The Chiefs went on to lose to Buffalo the next week. ... Andy Reid has a 10-10 postseason record as a head coach and is 5-0 against the Texans, including a 27-20 victory in Houston in Week One. The teams never have met in the postseason. Smith passed for three touchdowns and 243 yards and tight end Travis Kelce had six catches for 206 yards and two TDs in their September meeting. ... Kansas City has won 10 straight since losing five in a row early in the season. Houston ended the regular season on a three-game win streak after losses to the Bills and Patriots. ... Hoyer, who was benched as the starting quarterback then later missed games because of concussion issues, passed for 19 TDs in 11 games. He was one of four QBs to start for the Texans this season. A different QB started each of the last three Houston wins. ... Smith deserves more respect than he gets from media pundits. In three career playoff games with San Francisco and Kansas City, he has passed for 873 yards, four TDs and no interceptions. That is no fluke. He had 20 TDs and only four INTs during the regular season. ... In 2014, no Chiefs wide receiver caught a touchdown pass. Different story in 2015. Jeremy Maclin had 87 catches for 1,088 yards and eight TDs, giving the Chiefs a needed deep threat. ... This game will be about big-play defenders such as JJ Watt of the Texans, who led the NFL with 17.5 sacks. Houston linebacker Whitney Mercilus added 12 sacks. On the Kansas City side you have linebacker Justin Houston, who averages more than a sack a game in his last 21 games. Houston is coming off the injured list (knee). In addition, Chiefs rookie cornerback Marcus Peters tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions.

Outlook: This figures to be a defensive struggle that will go to the team that makes the big defensive plays and avoids the big offensive error. That sounds like the Chiefs’ M.O. Kansas City led the AFC with a plus-14 turnover margin. Houston ranked third in the league, yielding 310.2 yards a game. Chiefs, 24-17.

Steelers (10-6) at Bengals (12-3)

TV: CBS, 8:15 p.m.

The line: Steelers (-2½).

The scoop: The AFC North rivals split their regular season series, with each winning on the road. The Bengals won, 16-10, and then the Steelers, 33-20, in December. ... Cincinnati is in the playoffs as the AFC North champion, but nearly all the history is on the side of the Steelers. Tomlin has a 13-5 coaching record against the Bengals and a 5-4 postseason record. Lewis of the Bengals is only 8-18 against Pittsburgh and, of course, is 0-6 in postseason. What’s more, the Bengals go into the game with a quarterback question. Andy Dalton, who is 0-3 as a starter in postseason games, has not sufficiently recovered from his fractured thumb to play Saturday. He was injured in the loss to Pittsburgh in December and has not played since. That means AJ McCarron will start his third game in a row. The former Alabama QB passed for six touchdowns with two interceptions in three starts at the end of the season (2-1). ... Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams, tied for the league lead with 11 rushing TDs, is out with a foot injury. (Jeremy Hill of the Bengals also had 11 rushing touchdowns.) The Steelers will start Fitzgerald Toussaint, a second-year running back. ... What Steelers opponents fear most is the passing of Roethlisberger to WRs Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Brown caught 136 passes for 1,834 yards, 11 touchdowns and a 13.5 average. He also returned 22 punts for a 9.6-yard average and a 71-yard touchdown return. ... A win would give Pittsburgh 34 victories in postseason, tying Dallas for most all-time.

Outlook: Expect a physical showdown between these rivals who have met 91 times, with Pittsburgh leading the series, 56-35. The Steelers are known for rough, tough defense but Cincinnati has the better defensive stats for this one, 340.8 yards against to 363.1 for Pittsburgh. The teams are almost even in sacks, 32 for Cincy and 33 for Pittsburgh. Steelers, 16-10.

Last week’s results: 8-8 straight up; 5-11 versus spread

Season’s record: 145-90 straight up; 121-109-5 versus spread.