The Chiefs vs Texans: Divisional Preview. The Chiefs meet the Texans for the second time this year as Houston comes to Arrowhead in the Divisional Round of the 2019 playoffs.
It is expected to be very cold and snowy in Kansas City. The Chiefs showed earlier this year that snow does not slow them down but a snowy game will help the Texans. The Chiefs pass defense has turned into a top 10 unit but the run defense is still a mediocre group overall. In a snowy game like this, the Texans will be at an advantage running with Carlos Hyde and using Duke Johnson as a change of pace guy. If Bill O’Brien leans on his ground game, and it is effective, they will also be able to control the game and keep Patrick Mahomes on the sideline. That will be instrumental in them pulling off the upset.
On offense, the Chiefs just need to keep doing what is working for them. In other words, Patrick Mahomes. Yes, they should run the ball and keep the game script balanced but overall they need to throw and take advantage against a bad Texans secondary. The bevy of weapons on the Chiefs offense is nearly unstoppable. The Texans will not have an answer if the Chiefs stick to what got them here.
In week 15, the Chiefs played in a snow game against the Broncos. Instead of becoming conservative and trying to run the ball, Andy Reid stayed aggressive and kept calling for Patrick Mahomes to pass. Typically in these types of conditions, you expect your quarterback to struggle with accuracy. That was not the case for Mahomes. He finished with 80% completion by going 27/34, 340 yards, and two touchdowns. He did this against one of the top secondaries in 2019. The Texans secondary has given up the fourth-most passing yards and the fourth-most passing touchdowns. Patrick Mahomes will be able to have a very strong day against them even in “bad” conditions.
Tyreek Hill will be a massive factor in this game. Jonathan Joseph and Lonnie Johnson will most likely be covering him. Joseph is an aging vet who has lost a step and Johnson is a rookie who has struggled this season. Hill will be able to use his speed to beat either of them for some deep balls. When these teams faced earlier in the season, Hill’s first game back from injury, Hill brought in a 46-yard touchdown at the start of the game (first of two touchdowns). The Chiefs offense has only gotten better since then. The Texans are overmatched with Hill’s speed and won’t be able to keep up with him in this snow.
Travis Kelce will be the security blanket. With Hill stretching the defense, Kelce will have a lot of short routes to work with. Last time they played in the snow Mahomes used Kelce a lot (11 catches, 142 yards) as a safety net over the middle of the field. This game should call for that same type of game script.
Outside of Hill and Kelce, Sammy Watkins will be the most involved receiver. The game will funnel through the other two so Watkins won’t make a huge impact but he will still be important to opening up the game for others. He may be the third target on this team but he is still a very talented WR that defenses have to account for. Mecole Hardman will also likely be sprinkled in for some deep type plays. He is a massive boom or bust guy. The Chiefs will try to create something with his speed to take advantage of the Texans porous secondary.
Chiefs Run Game
The Chiefs are averaging 98 rushing yards per game which makes them the 23rd best rushing team. That’s not great. They’ve been able to survive a mediocre run game on the shoulders of Mahomes. As a whole, the run game has just been disappointing this year. They lack the personnel to have a truly efficient run attack. Damien Williams has been the lead back in their committee but his injury proneness has popped up all season. You could point to that as a reason for their lack of success but even when he has played, the team has never really threatened with their run. He is the best all-around back for the team and he’ll need to have a solid day for them. The Chiefs’ passing game will be very effective but Williams is going to have to pick up tough yards in the snow to help ice the game.
LeSean McCoy is second in the committee. Andy Reid has said multiple times that the team has been saving McCoy for the playoffs. Is that just talk or do they really believe they can turn to him in high stakes games? He’s been used more in the screen game while Williams tends to get the majority of the carries. McCoy’s elusive style of play has the potential to cause a lot of problems for the Texans. It’s hard to get traction on icy, cold. snowy fields so McCoy will be able to use his nimble feet to get around defenders as they’re slipping and falling.
It cannot be understated how many strides the Chiefs defense has taken this year. They are peaking at the right time. They’ve given up the seventh-most rushing yards and on paper that looks bad, however, since week 12 they have only given up a 100-yard rushing game to one player. The run defense has really started to mesh and they’ve been stopping opposing running backs. Despite this unit improving so much, they’re still the weak link on this team. They will have their hands full with Duke Johnson, who like the Chiefs running backs, will benefit from the rough conditions.
The pass defense is one of the best pass defenses in the league in 2019. They’re currently top ten in yards allowed and passing touchdowns allowed. Tyrann Mathieu (All-Pro) has made such a big difference in the secondary. Rookie Juan Thornhill has combined with Mathieu to produce one of the best safety duos in the league. This isn’t the 2018 pass defense. A lot of the success will come down to Will Fuller. When he is out, the Texans passing game is a shell of itself. They severely struggle to pass the ball when he isn’t in the lineup to stretch the defense. Fuller should return from injury this week.
Since week 11, The Chiefs have only allowed 11.5 points per game. That is the top mark in the NFL over that time frame. The Texans are going to struggle to score points in Arrowhead. Their offensive line is not a strong group and they had their worst performance as a unit last week. Chiefs defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, has made his career by creating schemes that take advantage of offensive lines. When you combine all of these factors; Chiefs defense peaking, weather conditions, and Houston’s offensive line struggles, it’s looking like a long day for the Texans.
The X-Factor for this game will be the weather. The Chiefs found lots of success in similar conditions earlier in the season but that doesn’t mean we will see a repeat performance. It will be a harsh environment for both squads to play in and has the potential to heavily impact the outcome of the game.
- Juan Thornhill: the star rookie tore his ACL in week 17
- Travis Kelce: Kelce came up on the injury report late in the week with a knee injury. He is questionable but expected to play
- Chris Jones: Jones has the same situation as Kelce but his injury was his calf. He should play
- Will Fuller: Fuller has been dealing with a groin injury but is expected to play
- Chiefs -9.5
- Over 51.5
- Chiefs 40-Texans 17
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