If someone had claimed during the offseason that the Kansas City Chiefs’ easiest game in their first four would be the season opener on the road against the New England Patriots they would have been laughed out of town. Yet after their third straight close victory, easy games are a thing of the distant past (and maybe future). With one of the league’s best defenses looming on the horizon in the Houston Texans, the Chiefs have to bring their best to the table.
After falling to the Jaguars in Week 1, the Texans have looked like a new team. In games that rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson has started their record is 2-1; the loss was by 3 points against the Patriots in Week 3. Their largest margin of victory was a whopping 43 points against the Tennessee Titans in Week 4; their smallest, 4 points against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. What this means is that the Texans are neither unbeatable nor ignorable.
In order to beat the Texans, head coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs must focus on attacking Houston’s pressure points. Similarly, the Texans will try to exploit the Chiefs’ pressure points. And, of course, both teams will do their best to protect the chinks in their armor.
With right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif going down against the Redskins on Monday night, the Chiefs now have backups playing at every position on the interior offensive line. The Texans currently have 10 sacks on the season; if the Chiefs can’t scheme around Houston’s strong defensive front, that number might skyrocket.
Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters has elite talent but gave up two touchdowns in coverage against the Redskins, proving that he is not invincible. Behind him, Terrance Mitchell and Philip Gaines are going to have their hands more than full. The Texans have a scary stable of wide receivers, including elite playmaker DeAndre Hopkins. Will Fuller and Braxton Miller are also threats that can generate yards after the catch. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton will have to put the secondary in a position to succeed with his gameplan on Sunday.
Houston performs better than average on defense, allowing 95.5 rushing yards per game. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt has been the bright star of Kansas City’s offense for four weeks straight, which means the Texans will know what to face. As long as they don’t try to get too fancy, the Chiefs should get production out of Hunt. However, Andy Reid has a history of getting in his own way when it comes to utilizing his best players.
Houston’s offensive line isn’t faring any better than Kansas City’s, having given up 17 sacks on the season (the Chiefs are right behind with 16). The Chiefs have only registered eleven sacks on defense this year, but that won’t last for long. Elite pass-rusher Justin Houston has returned to his starting spot at outside linebacker and is working off his rust. Look for at least one sack from him this weekend.
The Texans are only giving up 196 passing yards per game, which would suggest that they have an elite pass coverage squad. However, much of this success is manufactured by their pass rush. They lack shutdown corners on the outside and will struggle with Kansas City speedster Tyreek Hill. A handful of interceptions by their safeties have aided them in crucial moments, but don’t hold your breath that Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith will throw one unforced.
Four games without a major return play is perhaps the longest stretch for the Chiefs in recent history. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub’s unit is uncharacteristically quiet this season. If they revert to the norm this week, the Texans will be in trouble.