We have entered the dog days of summer, where most of us wait for football to return. Here, we will continue to look at the Chiefs schedule and dissect each game. Next on the schedule for Kansas City is the Houston Texans, who have a formidable defense that rivals any team. This will be another big road test for the Chiefs.
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September 18th, 2016: Texans 19, Chiefs 12
The most recent meeting between these two teams occurred last season, also in Houston. This game was a field goal fest from the beginning. Brock Osweiler delivered one of his better games of his season, completing 19 of 33 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown, despite two picks. Kansas City struggled to contain DeAndre Hopkins, who caught seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Will Fuller also torched the Chiefs secondary, catching four passes for 104 yards. The only real victory for Kansas City on defense was holding Lamar Miller to 3.3 yards per carry.
The Chiefs offense was held in check all day, and couldn’t find a way into the end zone. Alex Smith had 5.02 yards per attempt on that day. They couldn’t stretch the field vertically in the passing game, in part due to the fearsome Texans pass rush. The Chiefs did run the ball effectively, but they couldn’t utilize that strength due to playing from behind.
January 9th, 2016: Chiefs 30, Texans 0
These two teams looked very different eight months earlier in the 2015-2016 season. Kansas City and Houston opened up the playoffs on Wild Card Weekend. The blowout was on from the start, when Knile Davis took the opening kickoff back 106 yards for a score. The Chiefs defense was especially dominant, forcing five turnovers, with four of those being Brian Hoyer interceptions. Alex Smith didn’t have an especially great game, but with the way the defense played, he didn’t have to. Travis Kelce dominated though, with eight catches for 128 yards. Spencer Ware was also efficient, tallying 67 yards on 16 carries. The Chiefs did what was expected of them against a mediocre Texans offense.
What Has Changed For 2017?
Not much has changed with these two teams entering 2017(the changes in Kansas City have been covered). The Texans have moved on from Brock Osweiler, and drafted the heir apparent in DeShaun Watson. Cornerback AJ Bouye departed for Jacksonville, leaving a sizable hole in the secondary. Houston still has a formidable front. Jadeveon Clowney has progressed, and looks like a future All Pro. JJ Watt is also on track to return this season. Clowney, Watt, and Whitney Mercilus will give every team fits.
Gaining An Offensive Upper Hand
When a defensive battle occurs, the only separation comes from quarterback play. Both the Chiefs and Texans will put pressure on the offenses. Odds are, this comes down to a possession or two. DeShaun Watson may be forced into game action by this point, and that gives the Chiefs an advantage. Rookies don’t often transition well early in their first season. Their inexperience to read coverages and handle blitzes will show immediately. Guys like Justin Houston and Dee Ford can thrive in this situation. Combine the inexperience with the Texans depleted offensive line, and an advantage exists.
The biggest change on the Texans defense shows that this time around, Kansas City can implement more of a deep passing game. Tyreek Hill wasn’t used as much early last season, and the game might have been different had Hill found his groove. Travis Kelce will use his physicality to get open in the middle of the field. Jeremy Maclin and Hill have a better chance to get open down the field this time around. The running game in Andy Reid’s system will get going. It’s up to the receiving core to make things easier down the field.
Ultimately, quarterback play will decide this defensive battle. Alex Smith is more battle-tested than Watson or Tom Savage. The absence of AJ Bouye is also a major point of emphasis on this game. Jonathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, and Kevin Johnson are a solid group, but Bouye stood out last season. The Chiefs have an advantage with their run defense, and holding Lamar Miller in check will put more pressure on Watson/Savage. This game could come down to the wire, but the Chiefs have the experience.
Chiefs 23, Texans 16
Current Projected Record: 3-2
— Jake Schyvinck is a Managing Editor for cover32 and covers the Kansas City Chiefs. You can follow him on Twitter here.