Few people seem to realize that the Houston Texans match up pretty favorably against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Texans are allowing the fewest yards per game (252.8) in the NFL on defense despite allowing 29 points per game, which is mostly the result of turnovers by quarterbacks Matt Schaub and T.J Yates. It might be to their advantage that neither one of these guys will be starting come Sunday. Instead, the Texans will turn to an inexperienced, local product out of the University of Houston—Case Keenum.
When looking at the matchup, the difference in their overall standings is somewhat misleading for the Chiefs to be such overwhelming favorites.
By comparison, Houston's offense is better than Kansas City's in rushing yards (136 versus 119), passing yards (258 versus 207) and total yards per game (395 versus 326). They also have the edge in time of possession (20:92 versus 19:20).
On defense, the Texans are allowing fewer yards through the air (131 versus 190), although the Chiefs have the best third-down defense in the league (24.1 percent).
Both teams can be run on, but the Chiefs are allowing 5.1 yards per carry, while the Texans are allowing 4.2 yards per carry. This should play favorably for what Houston will try to do offensively, which is run the ball as much as possible to set up easy reads on play-action plays as the Chiefs try to stack the box against an inexperienced QB. This game plan should also help slow down Kansas City’s deadly pass rush.
Alex Smith has not been playing that well despite the Chiefs' unblemished record. His best asset to the team has been avoiding turnovers, which happens to be the exact weakness of the Texans. However, look for a conservative style of play by the Texans offense this week that should mirror the Chiefs in terms of throwing downfield.
This should make the game a run-focused endeavor that plays right into strengths of the Houston Texans.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider here is this—football is a game of emotions, and the Texans will be fighting for their lives come Sunday. They need this win to stay viable in 2013, so expect a highly motivated group to come into Arrowhead Stadium.
Another recent development that plays into the emotionality of the game is that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, will be coaching with a heavy heart after the loss of his father and iconic coach, Bum Phillips.
I would imagine that the defense will play inspired football with the hope of giving its respected coordinator something to smile about in the wake of his recent loss.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and current Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.