Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss Monday's Patriots-Texans matchup and news from around the NFL.
King said Monday's game is more important for the Patriots than the Texans. Houston leads the AFC at 11-1, with the 9-3 Patriots trying to close ground in the race for the conference's top seed.
"It's probably a little bit bigger for New England," King said. "Even if the Texans lose this game, they're still in line and would still be a prohibitive favorite to get at least one of the two first-round byes. Part of you might say, well, if they lose, all it takes in one loss in the two games to Indianapolis in the last three weeks for New England then to sneak in to win home field. But I've always thought this, that it's far more important to get one of the two first-round byes than it is to sell out and do everything you can to get the first seed.
"Everybody wants the first seed, but the most important thing we've seen in recent playoff history is that the home field is not the nirvana thing they way it used to be. What's most important is getting a week off so you can get some of your guys healthy."
The Texans have shown signs of weakness in the last three weeks -- needing overtime to beat the lowly Jaguars (43-37) and struggling Lions (34-31) -- but King said the fact that they have continued to win while not at their best should work in their favor.
"It's OK to question this team on defense after they gave up 37 to Jacksonville and 31 to Detroit, you can question that," King said. "But I would make two points about that, because I think that's probably the thing that most people look at and say this is really kind of a shadow great team. But I look at that and I say, OK, Jacksonville, that was just a weird, weird football game. And you can't get up for every game you play. So, you kind of say we'll give them a mulligan.
"Then they go on the road, they fly three days after playing a five-quarter game against Jacksonville. And then they go on the road and they play against Detroit, and Detroit's got to win that game to have any hope of making the playoffs. And they end up winning that game in overtime, too. They play 10 quarters in five days, and they win both games. So, I would look at that [as] even though they didn't play well on defense, I would look at that as more of a plus in saying what a good team they are rather than a minus.
"Keep in mind, I was looking at this the other day, three of the last five games they've allowed 10 points or less on defense. I still think this is a good defense. You're able to move on this defense, no question about it, and I think Tom Brady will do some things Monday. But I am a Texans believer."
Following are more highlights from the interview.
On reports that the league is considering a suggestion from Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano to eliminate kickoffs: "It's not substantial. I had heard this last spring. This happened more than a year ago, when Schiano was still the coach at Rutgers, and Goodell had dinner with Urban Meyer, Greg Schiano and a bunch of guys and he asked them all any ideas they had to make the game better or to make the game safer or whatever, and people threw around ideas and that happened to be one of them. The fact that it came out in this [Time magazine] story is interesting, but it's not in any way a proposal that the NFL thinks is going to happen next year or even the year after, or that they even think is a good idea. … It's just an idea to keep talking about things to try to make the game safer and see how much you'd be losing without the kickoff.
"One other thing: Bill Belichick has said it on a couple of occasions, that the extra point is a totally useless part of the game of football -- which it is, it's idiotic, it should be eliminated, it should be changed. I couldn't agree with Belichick more on this. Over the last I think three years, 99.6 percent of all extra-point attempts have been successful. In essence, when 299 out of 300 plays are going to be 45 seconds of wasted time in a football game, why do it? So, I think that is much more likely in the next couple of years that we see a legitimate proposal to try to either eliminate the extra point or to change it to be something like, let's say for the sake of argument, to either make a coach commit right after a touchdown: Do you want seven points, or do you want six points and the opportunity to go for two? … There's some sentiment right now that people are actually going to start seriously discussing whether the extra point needs to be eliminated because it's a total waste of time."
On the NFL's problem with players and guns: "I don't know that there's much [commissioner Roger Goodell] can do. It's legal in the United States to own guns. The players in the NFL are American citizens. I'm sure, I'll bet you a lot of money, that there were some meetings at the NFL this week to ask -- and it's a question I have been asking some people around the league -- what, if anything, can you do? But at this point I think the only thing that really they can do is emphasize to players that they're going to be very, very tough if you're found to have used a gun illegally in the commission of any sort of incident."
On Jon Gruden's future: "He'll be back at ESPN, I think. … The thing that people need to understand about Gruden is that ESPN just nine months ago handed him basically the title of czar of Monday Night Football. He runs the meetings, he runs film sessions with producers, directors, everything like that. He runs the whole thing. They took Ron Jaworski out of the booth to give him an even bigger platform. And I think if he came to them and said, 'I want to go coach the San Diego Chargers' or whatever, I think they'd be furious, they'd be spitting mad. Whatever they would say publicly, they would be really upset at this. And I think he knows that they have basically invested a lot in him."
On the possibility of University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly taking an NFL job: "He's coaching in the NFL next year. I've been on that thing all along. The only reason he didn't coach in the NFL this year is that Oregon would not guarantee that his offensive coordinator [Mark Helfrich] would succeed him if he left. Oregon now has all but guaranteed that the offensive coordinator will succeed him. He's going to take the best job he can get out there."