<
>

Tale of the Tape: Chiefs' Jeremy Maclin vs. Texans' DeAndre Hopkins

The Chiefs' Jeremy Maclin, left, and Houston's DeAndre Hopkins combined for 198 receptions, 2,609 yards and 19 TDs this season. Their teams meet in the AFC playoffs on Saturday. AP Photo, USA TODAY Sports

When the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs meet in the wild-card round Sunday in Houston, the teams’ leading wide receivers will be among the most important players on the field.

Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins was among the NFL leaders this season in catches (111), yards (1,521) and touchdowns (11). The stats for Kansas City’s Jeremy Maclin weren’t as impressive (87, 1,088, eight) but he still had a dramatic impact for a team that struggled to pass the ball last season.

Hopkins had the better day when the Texans and Chiefs met in the regular-season opener in September in Houston, catching nine passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Maclin had five receptions for 53 yards.

ESPN NFL Nation Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Texans reporter Tania Ganguli compare the two receivers.

Height and weight

Maclin: 6-foot, 198 pounds. Maclin isn’t as big as Hopkins or some other top wide receivers, but he plays bigger than his size. Opposing defenders have difficulty knocking Maclin off his routes. He generally defeats press coverage. He also excels at winning the battle for a contested pass.

Hopkins: 6-1, 218 pounds. As he’s improved, Hopkins has also added weight to his lanky frame. It was part of the transition to becoming a football player rather than a basketball player, which he wanted to be for a time growing up. What’s probably a more important measurement for his style, though, is his hand size. His high school had to special order receiver gloves in his size. From thumb to pinky, his hands measured at 10 inches at the NFL scouting combine. That, and the strength work he puts in on his hands help him make the one-handed catches for which he’s become known.

What he does best

Maclin: Maclin is a deep threat, but his greatest strength might be his ability to run after the catch. The Chiefs like to utilize Maclin on bubble screens when he might have some room to maneuver after the catch. Maclin also has great hands. Pro Football Focus had him with just one drop this season despite being targeted 120 times. Quarterback Alex Smith trusts Maclin like no other receiver. He will run his route the way it’s supposed to be run and he will be where he’s supposed to be. Smith has said he will throw to Maclin when he’s in one-on-one coverage because of his belief that Maclin will prevail. Maclin is competitive and will often make the catch on a contested pass.

Hopkins: Hopkins is great on contested catches. If he’s one-on-one, he and the Texans quarterbacks consider him open, no matter what. But he’s also adept at getting open through very precise route-running. One thing he’s worked on with the Texans this season is disguising the top of the route so an opposing defensive back doesn’t quite know what he’s about to do. This was on full display when the Texans faced the New York Jets this season. One-on-one with Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, Hopkins had 98 yards and a touchdown in the first half. It was Hopkins’ most impressive half of the season. Since that game, no team has tried to single-cover Hopkins.

Most impressive accomplishment this season

Maclin: In his first season in Kansas City after arriving as a free agent, Maclin energized what had been a lethargic Chiefs passing game. In 2014, Smith infamously failed to throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver, but Maclin led the Chiefs this season with eight scoring catches. He was held without a touchdown in just one of the season’s final eight games. Maclin also was the first Chiefs receiver to have more than 80 catches (he had 87) and 1,000 yards (1,088) since 2011.

Hopkins: He put up huge numbers with four different quarterbacks. In just his third NFL season, Hopkins has more touchdown catches (11) than any other receiver in Texans history -- a franchise that had Andre Johnson for 12 seasons. He’s also the first player in NFL history to have 100-yard games with each of four different quarterbacks during the same season. The reason is simple. Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden all know Hopkins will catch just about anything thrown his way. Mallett once called him "Spiderman." Hopkins has 111 catches on 190 targets for 1,521 yards this season.

Reason for optimism Saturday

Maclin: Maclin is on a roll. Over the past six games, he has 39 receptions for 476 yards and six touchdowns. He had five catches for 53 yards and no touchdowns in the season opener against the Texans, but that’s when Maclin and Smith were just getting started. Tight end Travis Kelce had the big receiving game for the Chiefs that day with six catches, 106 yards and two touchdowns. But since then, Kelce has been displaced by Maclin as Smith’s favorite receiver.

Hopkins: Since Week 7 the Chiefs have allowed 203.8 passing yards per game. That ranks third during that time in the NFL, behind the Texans and the Ravens. Rookie cornerback Marcus Peters began his Pro Bowl campaign against the Texans, intercepting Hoyer's very first pass of the season. That pass was meant for Hopkins, with whom there was a miscommunication on the play. Since then, Hoyer and Hopkins have spent a lot of time together understanding each other. Their chemistry has improved, and that will certainly help Hopkins and the offense against a talented Chiefs secondary.

Something you didn’t know

Maclin: His JMac Gives Back Foundation provides financial and emotional assistance to children and families forced into alternative living situations. Maclin lived for a time with a surrogate family when he was growing up in the St. Louis area. The JMac Gives Back Foundation has roots in St. Louis, but Macln said he plans to expand to the Kansas City area during the offseason.

Hopkins: True to his southern roots (he’s from Central, S.C.), Hopkins grew up a fan of NASCAR. After the Texans’ season finale against Jacksonville, Hopkins donned a vintage Jeff Gordon "Winston Cup Champion" jacket. The jacket commemorated Gordon’s 1995 championship, but also had nods to his 1997 and 1998 titles sewn on. Hopkins also grew up a fan of Dale Earnhardt Sr., and cried as an 8-year-old in 2001 when the legendary driver died.