Has there ever been less drama, hype, or anticipation for an NFL playoff game?
Here in New England, we openly mock the opposition. We ridicule the Houston Texans as a team with no chance to beat the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the divisional round. The team from the land of “Friday Night Lights’’ will produce “Saturday Night Blights” in Foxborough and everyone knows it.
With all this ridicule, we get no resistance from anywhere in the heart of Texas. The people who cover the team and the Texans fans offer no alternative outcome. They are prepared for a major beatdown. Almost nobody in Houston is fighting back.
It’s downright strange, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like it. The point spread is hideously high (16, 17, keep going), and still no one will bet on the Texans. I’m picking the Patriots by 25 points because that’s their average margin of victory in the last four meetings between the two teams at Gillette.
I have written outrageous stories that appeared in the Houston Chronicle. I have gone on the radio for Houston’s afternoon sports program and told those nice folks that they have no chance. And there is no pushback. Just about everyone in Houston agrees with me. The Texans are tackling dummies. They have no shot to win this playoff game and they know it. Sad.
Six Houston Chronicle football beat writers and columnists made their predictions for this game and all picked the Patriots. The closest projected outcome was 14 points.
Wow. Almost every newspaper outlet in America has at least one hometown guy who will generally side with the locals.
Not Houston. There’s no happy-talk, ownership-pipeline, media cartel covering the Texans. These people deal in reality.
“Nobody gives the Texans a chance,’’ said longtime Chronicle columnist John McClain (picking the Patriots, 34-13). “The big thing is if they can cover the point spread. I’m surprised it’s only 16 points. Nobody gives them a prayer. Anybody in their right mind would know they have no chance.’’
“There’s very few people who believe they can win, and if they do, they’re not very outspoken about it,’’ said Josh Innes, who pilots a daily sports talk show in Houston from 2-6 p.m. “The fans are resigned to the fact that because of Brock Osweiler and based on what happened the first time they were there [Patriots, 27-0] that they don’t have a legitimate chance to win.
“In 2012, at least they thought they had a chance. [Matt] Schaub was a decent quarterback and people thought maybe we could upset somebody. I think this is all Brock Osweiler. He is the main reason why people have no faith. They know who Brock Osweiler is and they have no faith in him.
“I haven’t gotten a vibe that there is any great animosity toward the Patriots either. There’s a lot of Cowboys fans and Steelers fans here. If this game was against the Dallas Cowboys, you’d get a lot of hate.
“This is not the same. The Texans haven’t been competitive against the Patriots, and they’re a 16-point dog and they’ve gotten murdered every time they’ve played them.’’
Reid Laymance, assistant sports editor of the Chronicle, said, “I think truth has hit people in the face. They have no faith in Brock Osweiler and just hate him. Sure the defense is good, but it’s not that good. I think they are just resigned to losing. Say what you want, you’re probably right.
“We put together a little thing for our website and the headline was ‘Don’t laugh, but here’s the way the Texans could win.’ You know it’s not true, but you do it hoping people will click on it.
“I tried tweeting out your column but people here seem to have accepted this. I think what people are more worried about is the Cowboys coming here for the Super Bowl. I think they are more worried about that. Having Cowboy fans here for a whole week for the Super Bowl. That would be worse than this.’’
I was hoping the Chronicle featured one of those full-page ads with car dealers picking all the weekend games. Those guys always go for the home team. It’s better for business. Alas, the Chronicle abandoned that feature last year. So we have no Buddy Garrity from Dillon, Texas, sticking up for the hometown team.
The tone from Texas seems to be best represented by the scene in “The Waterboy,” when South Central Louisiana State fans learn that linebacker Bobby Boucher won’t be playing anymore. Flustered fan Rob Schneider raises his arms and exclaims, “Oh no, we suck again!”
The Houston media put it pretty bluntly when they interviewed Tom Brady on a conference call Wednesday.
“The view nationally is that this game could be a blowout,” said a well-meaning scribe.
Tom was ever-ready.
“That’s ridiculous to think that,” he said. “There’s nothing easy about it.”
Like all of the other players and coaches, Brady is obligated to deliver clichés and pretend that this is a real serious test for the Patriots.
But we all know the truth. Houston at New England is a rare playoff game with absolutely zero tension or excitement regarding the identity of the winner. The game has not even started and we are already on to Pittsburgh or Kansas City.
The Texans, meanwhile, can clean out their lockers and make way for the hated Dallas Cowboys, who could be the home team in Super Bowl LI at RNG Stadium.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.