If the playoffs ended today it wouldn’t be any sweat for the Houston Texans. Coming off a 29-17 victory at home last week against the feisty Indianapolis Colts, the Texans have already clinched their division and are completely in control of their playoff position. All any football team could ever ask for from a season is being in control of their destiny come playoff time, and that’s exactly where the Texans are.
If Houston wins today against the Vikings then they clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If they lose, however, then they’ll have to wait for either the Patriots or the Broncos to lose.
It shouldn’t be a terribly difficult task, seeing as how Houston has been dominant as of late and has managed to run a steady course throughout the entire season. Facing the Vikings at home is a nice place to be this late in the season when you’ve gone 6-1 so far on your own field.
Then again, this is the NFL, and this is crunch time.
Minnesota has managed to pull it together as of late. Riding on the shoulders of All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson—who ran for 200 yards last week for the 4th time in his career—Minnesota has turned what looked early on to be a disaster of a season into a potential playoff run. Heading into today’s contest at Reliant Stadium the Vikings are a decent 8-6. That certainly means something in a NFC North that has the Detroit Lions close to the bottom of the entire NFL and the Chicago Bears, who have resumed duties as a perennial disappointment. Minnesota actually has a shot at making the postseason, and if they want to realize that goal then they have to win every game from here on out.
Frankly, Minnesota has to want this game more. After last week the only other running back in NFL history to have more than 4 200-yard games is O.J. Simpson, so you know Peterson is flirting with history right now. Everyone on their side of the ball has something to prove, and they can shock the world with a win today in Houston. Of course, their last game of the season will be next week against the Green Bay Packers, so it really is not going to be easy for them. But, they can do it.
Houston is already in, and Wade Phillips certainly has a way of slacking off with such pressure having been already alleviated any Dallas fan can tell you about Phillips’ first season in Dallas in 2007, when the Cowboys famously laid down at the end of the year. The problem for the Vikings is that Houston is so good in so many key areas that they can actually afford to slack off, because they can still win regardless.
The Vikings are going to have to come at it hard and strong all game long. Jared Allen is expected to play, and if the Vikings want it enough then maybe that potentially-awesome run defense can make it a game.
Houston must know that the Vikings will depend almost entirely on Peterson’s ground attack, and the Texans are certainly no slouch on the defensive side of the ball (Phillips really is a great defensive coordinator). Typically, it’s not hard to defeat a one-dimensional team like Minnesota, but the “any given Sunday” factor comes to a head during this time of the season, and Minnesota knows what the stakes are.
They have to play twice as hard to beat these Texans at home. Houston made their first playoff appearance last year and they’ve blossomed into the sort-of Green Bay Packers of the AFC. They’re dangerous. Oh so dangerous. But, if Peterson can continue his monumental season today, and relentlessly pound the ground attack on Houston then Minnesota has a chance.
Christian Ponder will have to play the old Trent Dilfer game and try to make as few mistakes as possible so that the better elements of his squad can have a better chance to perform.
I don’t see them doing it. I see Houston making a statement today by capturing home field advantage by defeating a hungry team desperately seeking a playoff appearance.
Regardless, this game has the workings to be one of the best of the season. Then again, this IS the NFL… and it could turn out to be a blowout.
Where To Watch Online: Houston Texans vs. Minnesota Vikings