We’re finally here folks. After months of waiting, it’s time for the Kansas City Chiefs to begin their #RunItBack campaign, starting off with the AFC South champs, the Houston Texans.
Now, this Texans team isn’t nearly the team that made it to Kansas City in January earlier this year. They’ve lost RBs Carlos Hyde and Lamar Miller, DT D.J. Reader, CB Johnathan Joseph, and All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins. Granted, they’ve added some pieces as well, including a talented but oft-injured Brandin Cooks, reliable Randall Cobb, and an arguably washed David Johnson.
While this team appears to be worse than their 2019 squad on paper, they still offer some tough matchups for Kansas City. With Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt still on the roster, Andy Reid and Co. shouldn’t be sleeping on the team. With all of that, let’s roll into the key matchups!
Mitchell Schwartz vs J.J. Watt
This may be the most important matchup of the game. Even with his age, J.J. Watt consistently shows why he’s a 3x Defensive Player of the Year winner. Fortunately, Watt tends to rush off the left edge of the defense, pairing him up with 1st team All-Pro Mitchell Schwartz, one of the best at the position.
A true technician, Schwartz held Watt to 0 sacks in their past two matchups, which he’ll need to do once again to keep a clean pocket for Mahomes, as LT Eric Fisher will most likely have his hands full with OLB Whitney Mercilus. However, in 2018, Watt’s last full season, he was graded as PFF’s best pass rusher off the left side, totaling 71 pressures. Be sure to keep an eye on the battle in the trenches while the sparks fly elsewhere.
Deshaun Watson vs The Kansas City Secondary
Despite Steve Spagnuolo’s defense being fairly middle-of-the-pack in terms of yards allowed last year, their secondary did an outstanding job, allowing 221.4 YPG (8th), a passer rating of 80.8 (5th), and a completion percentage of 60.5% (4th) according to Pro Football Reference. Granted, CB Kendall Fuller left in free agency and CB Bashaud Breeland is suspended during this game, but safeties Juan Thornhill and Tyrann Mathieu still prowl the backend of the defense, with young CB Charvarious Ward locking down the left side.
Watson, however, should never be discounted. We all remember THIS play from the 2019 season…
Yes, DeAndre Hopkins is gone. Yes, he was replaced with an injury-prone Brandin Cooks. Yes, his head coach is the power-hungry Bill O’Brien. However, Watson has proved time and again that he is the one who can rise above it all and will his team to victory. He threw 12 picks last season, which isn’t horrible, but Kansas City will capitalize on any turnover given to them, which could very well decide the outcome of the game. Look for a Tyrann Mathieu INT off a tipped deep pass.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs the Houston Front Seven
Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been sensational in training camp, more than filling in for Damien Williams at RB1. OC Eric Bieniemy has sung high praise for the rookie, saying that “the kid has worked his tail off”. Edwards-Helaire put up 1,414 yards and 16 TDs on the ground to go along with 453 yards and score through the air his final season at LSU, showcasing his ability as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield, something that Kansas City places a high value on. This will be of the upmost importance in the matchup against Houston, as they were one of the worst rushing defenses in the league last year, giving up 4.8 YPC and 121.1 YPG (25th) in 2019. And that was when they had run-stuffing DT D.J. Reader, who left in free agency. While J.J. Watt and the Texans’ linebackers will do their best, expect Edwards-Helaire to have an impressive rookie debut running all over Arrowhead Stadium.
The Kansas City Front Four vs The Houston O-line
This is where Kansas City can do their best to make Watson uncomfortable on offense. While he has shown time and again that four defenders barreling at him isn’t an issue, DE Frank Clark (8.0 sacks last season) and DT Chris Jones (9.0 sacks) will be sure to make life difficult for him. While Clark may figure to line up across from Pro Bowl LT Laremy Tunsil, Jones will be going to work on C Nick Martin and RG Zach Fulton, freeing up one-on-one matchups for Alex Okafor and Derrick Nnadi, as well as KC’s linebackers to make plays in the run game. And as Watson’s lungs have shown, Houston hasn’t exactly given him the best protection a QB could ask for. Look for Clark and Jones to have a field day against the Houston offense.
This game won’t be very close. Deshaun Watson will do his best, but there are too many exploitable matchups for Andy Reid and the Chiefs. Mahomes looks ready to shred the weak Houston secondary, and Bill O’Brien’s team doesn’t look like it’ll fair well in a shoot-out. The Texans will try, but ultimately fall to Kansas City once again. Final score: Chiefs, 35-24.