Many in media circles are writing off the Houston Texans as a viable AFC title contender following a late-season collapse. But veteran defensive end Antonio Smith experienced a similar season that ended with a trip to the Super Bowl.
Getting off to an 11-1 start, the Texans were the overwhelming favorite to earn home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. But after losing three of its last four games, Houston must play in the wild card round, hosting Cincinnati on Saturday.
“We know we have a lot to prove,” said Smith, who played at Oklahoma State and John Marshall. “We know we have to beat the great teams to be AFC champs. That's our dream. That's what we've been talking about all the way back to training camp.”
Once considered one of the top AFC contenders, Houston now is an 18-to-1 long shot to win Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
But Arizona also was a long shot to reach the Super Bowl in 2008, when Smith played with the Cardinals.
Four years ago, Arizona lost four of its final six games, including a 47-7 loss to New England in the Cardinals' next-to-last regular season game.
Houston's 28-16 loss last Sunday at Indianapolis cost the Texans the No. 1 seed. But skeptics surfaced a month ago following a 42-14 loss at New England in a high-profile Monday night showdown.
“Most people probably view us as underdogs just like we were in Arizona,” said Smith. “Everyone will be looking at the Broncos and Patriots. But we know what this team is capable of.”
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