The Chiefs return an explosive offense, but the Texans experience may be a key difference maker.
As the Chiefs look to ‘run it back’ for back-to-back Super Bowl titles, their first roadblock comes from a familiar team. The Chiefs lost to the Texans 31-24 in Week 6, but Kansas City would go on to beat the Texans 51-31 in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The matchup will provide an early picture to where both teams are at with making a Super Bowl run. The Chiefs are the clear favorite, with their offensive talent across the board, but the Texans provide experience and depth at key positions.
Travis Kelce vs. Eric Murray
After a record 4 straight seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards for a tight end, Kelce has proven no linebacker in football can cover him, or at least should try.
Last year during the playoffs, Kelce caught 3 touchdown passes in their playoff matchup against the Texans, Kelce ended the game with 10 total catches for 134 receiving yards in a dominating performance.
Chiefs fans may remember Eric Murray, who was drafted in the fourth round in the 2016 NFL Draft. However, his time with the Chiefs was not too memorable, with only one interception in three seasons before signing a one-year deal with the Cleveland Browns last season before going to the Houston Texans.
Kelce should be able to get open consistently against Murray, if the Texans try to go with a linebacker, the result will be even worse given Kelce’s route running and ability to run after the catch.
Mitchell Schwartz/Eric Fisher vs. J.J. Watt
Schwartz and Fisher should be able to handle Watt, regardless if he rushes from the left or the right. Schwartz has played at an elite level over the last two seasons, with a first team All-Pro nomination in 2018.
Fisher has been a valuable piece for the Chiefs after being selected with the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Both of these pieces have played for the Chiefs for at least four seasons, providing both talent and experience in the system.
J.J. Watt is one of the most recognizable players in the entire league, from his hurricane relief funds to his on the field play. But over the course of his career, injuries have derailed his already hall of fame accolades and numbers.
Watt only played three games in 2016, five in 2017, then played an entire season in 2018 in which he forced a career-high 7 forced fumbles. Then last season only started in half the regular season games after he suffered a grade 3 pectoral tear.
Watt when healthy is still an elite player, but his body has taken too much of a toll over the course of his already hall of fame worthy career.
Chiefs defensive line vs. Texans offensive line
Last season, Deshaun Watson got sacked more than any quarterback in the NFL with 55 sacks, according to Team Rankings. This is not an ideal statistic, especially with Frank Clark and Chris Jones rushing at their newly extended franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Clark proved to be a great addition to the defensive unit after his postseason performance. That included five total sacks in those three games. Jones has proven to be one of the best interior rushers in football after a nine sack season in just 13 games played last regular season.
The Chiefs have a clear advantage here over the Texans, Watson will need to be ready to scramble at all times throughout this game.
Tyreek Hill vs. Bradley Roby
In his short time in the league, Hill has shown to be an essential and reliable piece for the Chiefs. This comes from his blazing speed and ability to improve every year. Hill started his career as a deep threat and returner, since he has evolved his route tree along with passing his returner duties on to wide receiver Mecole Hardman.
For the Chiefs, they have the most depth in the entire league at wide receiver. With Hill and Hardman, it’s already a special room. Now add in Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson and you may have an argument for one of the best offenses of all time.
Roby is going into his second season with the Texans, after he played five seasons with the Denver Broncos. Roby was a piece for the Broncos’ 2014 Super Bowl run, in his second year he started four regular season games.
Houston as a whole will struggle to cover the weapons and speed the Chiefs offer, if it is not Hill burning them deep someone else will take advantage of their single coverage and win their one-on-one battle.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Deshaun Watson
Mahomes has been a defier of odds since entering the league. After sitting behind now Washington quarterback Alex Smith, Mahomes exploded for an MVP season and became the youngest to ever throw for 5,000 yards and throw 50 touchdowns in a single season.
Watson is an incredible player, especially with the weapons he has to work with. But there are levels to the quarterback position and no one has looked as good through their first two starting seasons than Mahomes.
Anthony Hitchens vs. Darren Fells
At 33-years-old, Fells came off of his best season to date. With a career-high with 341 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, he may be able to continue off last season’s success.
His biggest matchup at linebacker will be Hitchens, who will be going into his third season in Kansas City. Despite starting 30 games for the Chiefs, Hitchens has yet to have an interception in red and white.
I am interested in seeing how he Chiefs scheme against Fells, who stands at 6-foot-7-inch tight end with their linebackers.
Chiefs linebackers vs. Texans linebackers
When it comes to experience, the Texan linebackers have played and experienced the league much longer than the Chiefs linebackers have.
In the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Chiefs selected Willie Gay Jr. out of Mississippi State University. Known for his quick speed, however very inexperienced, in the league. To expect him to play at a high level right away is unrealistic.
The Texans veteran linebacker Whitney Mercilus has already played eight seasons for Houston going into this season. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney has played in Houston since 2015.
With linebackers Zach Cunningham and Brennan Scarlett also providing at least three seasons of experience, the Texans comparatively should have much better chemistry and production than the Chiefs at linebacker.
David Johnson vs. Front 7
Johnson was traded from the Arizona Cardinals to the Texans in exchange for First-Team All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins, this deal also included draft picks. Despite the trade’s obvious criticisms, Johnson proved in 2018 what he can do against the Chiefs.
In Week 10 of the 2018 season, Johnson totaled 107 yards with two touchdowns. For the 2016 First-Team All-Pro, this was one of his best performances in recent memory. With the unproven linebackers, look out for Johnson having another big day against the Chiefs.
Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb vs. Rashad Fenton and Charvarius Ward
The Texans traded away their best receiving target last season in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. However, the Texans were able to get more experience at the position with the additions of wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb. Cooks has played with two of the best quarterbacks in the league in Tom Brady and Drew Brees. At just 26-years-old, Cooks may take over as the No. 1 option for Watson.
Cobb has also made a notable name for himself, playing with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers for eight seasons. After a season-long stint in Dallas, Cobb will be the leader for the receiving core in Houston.
This unit, compared to the cornerbacks for Chiefs, vary greatly with experience. Wiith 23-year-old Rashad Fenton expected to get his first start for the Chiefs, beware of him potentially showing his inexperience against this veteran group for the Texans.
Along with Fenton, 24-year-old Charvarius Ward is going to be looked at as the veteran piece with Bashaud Breeland suspended for the first four games of the season. Look for the Chiefs to potentially struggle at this position for the first month of the season.
Texans motivation from divisional loss
Getting the opportunity to play the team that ended your season is one thing, but playing the team you blew a 24-0 lead against in less than a quarter is another.
The Texans have to be more motivated to get revenge. Especially with the Chiefs having won the Super Bowl, there is a reason we have not seen any team repeat in nearly two decades.
This is one of the most important things to note from this game, how the Chiefs will respond to winning their first title in 50 years and how the Texans will respond after their losing effort last season.