By Sam McPherson
As the Houston Texans prepare to face the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC playoffs on Saturday, the Texans might have a problem on offense. Two of their wide receivers, veterans Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington, are listed as questionable for the game. If neither are available, the Houston offense will face unique challenges against the Kansas City defense. Overall though, the Texans are healthy heading into this game and that bodes well for Houston’s chances to advance to the AFC Divisional Round the following weekend.
Shorts has missed the last two games with a hamstring problem, and overall this season, the fifth-year WR missed five games. He was a full participant in Thursday’s practice, which is usually a good sign for weekend games. Meanwhile, Washington has played in 10 straight games after missing two contests early in the season; but with his hip acting up, Washington was limited in Thursday’s workouts after missing Wednesday’s team drills entirely.
The two vets combined for 89 catches, almost 1,150 receiving yards and six touchdowns this season, giving four different Houston quarterbacks an alternate target when No. 1 wideout DeAndre Hopkins was double teamed. Hopkins is the real deal with 111 receptions, over 1,500 yards and 11 TDs on his own; but having veterans on the other side of the field really helps, especially since the Texans don’t have a dominant tight end threat. If both Shorts and Washington aren’t able to play on Saturday at full strength, then Houston is going to have to dig deeper into the roster for its passing game.
B.J. Daniels and Keith Mumphery are the other WRs available. Daniels didn’t catch a pass all season and Mumphery tallied just 14 receptions himself. Texans starting quarterback Brian Hoyer may have to lean on his three TEs even more. For the season, Houston TEs combined for 41 catches, 448 yards and four TDs. The Texans may have to go there more than they want to in this game against Kansas City.
On the injury front defensively, three players are questionable for the Chiefs game: Linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (foot), safety Rahim Moore (illness) and defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan (illness). Like Washington, Clowney missed Wednesday’s practice entirely before recovering enough to register limited participation in Thursday’s workouts. He didn’t play in Week 17’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Clowney has only 4.5 sacks this season. Still, as the former No. 1 overall draft pick, Houston would rather see him on the field than off of it again.
As for Moore, he hasn’t played since Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins, and for those who remember, Moore is the safety that blew the deep-ball coverage in the 2012 AFC playoffs for the Denver Broncos against the Baltimore Ravens. It might be better if he doesn’t see the field against Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense. Pagan is a third-string end and probably wouldn’t play much anyway this Saturday unless others were injured, he’s played in just one game since Week 5.
Jadeveon Clowney, Linebacker (foot)
Rahim Moore, Safety (illness)
Jeoffrey Pagan, Defensive End (illness)
Cecil Shorts, Wide Receiver (hamstring)
Nate Washington, Wide Receiver (hip)
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.