The Texans are heavy underdogs for Sunday's Divisional Round playoff game at New England.
That's just fine with them.
"(I) love it," defensive end J.J. Watt said on Wednesday. "I love doing things people tell me I can't. That's a great feeling. Right now, there are a whole lot of people telling us what we can't do. I see a lot of guys in this locker room working hard to prove what we can do. Even if it's just us 53 in there believing in it, that's all it takes. We're going to go up there and we're going to put our best foot forward and we're going to play one hell of a football game."
The Texans lost to the Patriots 42-14 on Dec. 10, a one-sided beat-down that wide receiver Andre Johnson called a "butt whooping" on Wednesday. That game left many around the country to label the Texans frauds, pretenders and a host of other names to indicate they weren't – and still aren't – ready for the big stage.
That game was the start of a 1-3 finish to the regular season. It dropped the Texans from the NFL's best record at 11-1 to 12-4 and a No. 3 seed in the playoffs. Many observers predicted them to be one-and-done in the postseason, or, if they were to beat the Bengals in the Wild Card round, to lose handily the following week at New England. That sentiment hasn't changed since the Texans' 19-13 victory over Cincinnati last Saturday.
"A lot people think we don't have a chance," Johnson said. "I just laugh at it. We'll be ready.
"I don't really get caught up in what people say. You have to go out and play. Just like people said I was old, but I finished second in the league in (receiving) yards. It doesn't matter what people say. You've got to go out and play the game; that's the only way it gets done. You've got to go out and play the game. That's pretty much it."
The Texans don't need extra motivation for this game, a Divisional Playoff matchup with a team that humbled them on national TV a month ago. Still, many players are embracing the underdog role.
"I love being the underdog," said defensive end Antonio Smith, a fifth-round draft pick in 2005 who spent time on the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad and in NFL Europe before becoming a two-time Pro Bowler with the Texans. "It's my claim to fame."
Smith, a team captain was asked if it bothers him that people say the Texans don't have a chance on Sunday.
"That's the secret weapon of the underdog," he said. "Yeah, it bothers us, and you just sit there and you take it and you let it harbor and you let it fester and grow into what you need it to grow into."
Hopefully for the Texans, that grows into a victory and a trip to the AFC Championship Game.