Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans
Sunday, September 13th
1 PM ET, CBS
Kansas City Offense:
Last season the Chiefs had one of the weirdest seasons in recent memory. Nearly their entire starting defense finished the year on Injured Reserve, but Kansas City also didn’t have a receiver catch a touchdown last season. To assure that the streak ended, the team brought Jeremy Maclin in from Philadelphia, where coach Andy Reid had Maclin. While Maclin is a good receiver, he will undoubtably be hampered by his quarterback, Alex Smith. After last season, NFL fans are starting to catch on that Smith is a very mediocre quarterback. While he didn’t have the best of options around him, it was comical how few downfield shots Smith took last season. Maclin specializes in the deep ball, so perhaps his presence will open up the offense more, but chances are Maclin’s numbers will drop now that he’s out of Chip Kelly’s offense. Travis Kelce is a solid tight end, but an inexperienced Chris Conley and average slot receiver in Albert Wilson could mean Smith has difficulties completing more than dump-offs come Sunday. That’s because the Texans possess one of the top defenses in the NFL. While the secondary comprised of cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson, as well as safeties Rahim Moore and Quintin Demps is solid, it’s J.J. Watt that frees up the secondary. Watt is a one man wrecking crew, and while he’s “only” a defensive lineman, he is usually one of the league leaders in pass deflections also.
While Smith may be one of the worst starting quarterbacks the league has to offer, the Chiefs possess one of the best runningbacks in Jamaal Charles. Charles is almost impossible to bring down in the open field, as his combination of ankle-breaking moves and world-class speed make him a true superstar. The only thing usually limiting Charles is his head coach, as Reid frequently doesn’t use him enough. After Week 12 last season, Charles didn’t have 15 carries another game the rest of the season. Getting the ball to Charles in space will be crucial for Kansas City, as running between the tackles won’t work very well against a stout Houston front led by Watt. And it’s not like the Chiefs have a good offensive line anyway; only the right side of the line remains intact from last season.
The Texans were one win away from the playoffs last season, and many believed that they were a quarterback away from being a legit Super Bowl contender. Houston had FOUR quarterbacks see time last year, so the team brought in Brian Hoyer to bring stability to the position. And that’s exactly what he should be for the team, but not much more. Hoyer may be a worse quarterback than his counterpart, but Hoyer doesn’t have the weapons around him that Smith does. DeAndre Hopkins had a breakout year last year, and he surely will make an impact in this game, but Houston doesn’t have much outside of him. Cecil Shorts is decent slot option, while Nate Washington probably shouldn’t be in a starting lineup anymore. Kansas City has a good secondary, but it is missing its top corner in Sean Smith, who is suspended for the first three games of the season.
Houston was expected to ride Arian Foster this year, but the talented runningback has succumb to yet another injury. Foster will be out until at least Week 4, which means Alfred Blue will be the starter at the position. Blue had a couple nice runs this preseason, but there isn’t much to be excited about in his game. Blue doesn’t have much shake to his game, and he also doesn’t run with much power. Expect him to split carries with Chris Polk as the game goes on, as Polk is the superior talent of the two. Fortunately for Hoyer and whoever is in the backfield, Houston has a solid offensive line. That line will be tested, however, as Kansas City owns two of the game’s top edge rushers in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Houston actually led the league in sacks last season, and with left tackle Duane Brown nursing an injury, Houston may be living in the backfield Sunday.
X-Factor, Kansas City:
Marcus Peters. As mentioned, Sean Smith is suspended, so Peters will have a lot more on his plate in his first NFL start. The 1st round pick out of Washington is a very talented player who reminds some of Aqib Talib, as Peters is a very solid press corner who can also run with just about any receiver. He’ll have quite the test in this game, as he’ll be matched up with DeAndre Hopkins for much of the afternoon. Whether Peters’ is able to shut down Hopkins will be key for the Chiefs as Hopkins is one of Houston’s few weapons offensively.
Derek Newton. Newton is currently tasked with the right tackle job, but with Duane Brown questionable for Sunday’s contest, Newton may be asked to slide to the left tackle spot. Even if Brown plays, Newton will be key for Houston in this one, as he’s got quite the difficult matchup as he’s expected to see both Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. If Newton is able to solidify the edge and not allow pressure, Houston can incorporate more play-action in the offense to limit the pressure Hoyer will see.
Result: Houston 17, Kansas City 13
These teams are very similar to one another. Both have mediocre quarterbacks, both have offensive minded head coaches, both have superstar edge rushers, and both have solid secondaries. I think homefield advantage will have a big effect in this game, as these teams are just too similar for this game to be a blowout
Alex Smith: 19-29, 221, 1 INT
Brian Hoyer: 23-34, 263, 1 TD, 1 INT
Jamaal Charles: 16 carries, 69 yards, 1 TD; 4 catches, 33 yards
Knile Davis: 9 carries, 48 yards
Alfred Blue: 17 carries, 52 yards
Chris Polk: 11 carries, 49 yards
Jay Prosch: 1 carry, 2 yards, 1 TD
Jeremy Maclin: 5 catches, 55 yards
Albert Wilson: 4 catches, 43 yards
DeAndre Hopkins: 4 catches, 79 yards, 1 TD
Cecil Shorts: 5 catches, 61 yards
Jaelen Strong: 4 catches, 59 yards
Travis Kelce: 4 catches, 61 yards
Garrett Graham: 3 catches, 33 yards