Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans: Preview and Prediction
Much has been made recently about the Houston Texans’ pass defense which has been far and away the worst in the league, allowing more than 329 passing yards per game. However, the key to beating the Texans is running the football.
In Houston’s three victories, Texans’ opponents have averaged 45 pass plays, giving up 379 yards through the air. Only the Raiders, in their 31-24 loss to the Texans, tried to run the ball with 25 rushes for 118 yards. In the Texans’ two losses, both the Cowboys (27 rushes for 102 yards) and the Giants (32 rushes for 117 yards) made a point to run the football. In turn, those teams controlled the time of possession battle and won the game.
The Chiefs need to do the same.
Here are my Chiefs keys to victory on Sunday at Houston:
1. Establish the Running Game and Setup the Play-Action Pass to TE Tony Moeaki
The Texans defense has allowed opposing tight ends to have field days against them with Indy’s Dallas Clark and Oakland’s Zach Miller each catching 11 balls against them. This could be Moeaki’s breakout game.
Expect a healthy dose of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones to help setup the play-action pass, and when Cassel does drop back to throw, Moeaki will likely be his #1 target.
2. Andre Johnson and Kevin Walters Versus Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr
Johnson is one of the best WRs in the NFL and has been hampered in recent weeks by a high ankle sprain, while Flowers has emerged in this his third-season as one of the best young CBs in the league.
Walters, like Johnson, is a big presence at 6’3” and 218 lbs and runs solid routes. Similar to how the Chargers targeted the 6’2” and 220 lb Legedu Naanee (5 rec for 110 yds, 1 TD) in week one against Carr, expect quarterback Matt Schaub to look to Walters early and often. He is also a big target on third-downs, of which the Texans are converting on 41% of those chances.
3. Chiefs Linebackers Versus Arian Foster and the Texans’ Offensive Line
Texans' running back Arian Foster is leading the league in rushing mainly because of the Texans success of getting their blockers to the second level and making big blocks on the linebackers and safeties.
For the Chiefs defense to stop Foster, the line must continue to maintain their gaps and middle linebackers Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher must continue to fly to the football and avoid Texans’ blockers.
4. Win the time of possession battle
As mentioned earlier, in the two games the Texans have lost, their opponents controlled the football an average of more than 35 minutes.
The two best ways to control the clock are establishing the running game with running backs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, and completing short passes against what has been a bad Texans' pass defense. If the Chiefs get rolling, Charles and Jones could easily amass 150-200 yards against a defense that struggled to slow down the Giants' running game last week.
The Chiefs should be able to take advantage of several mismatches against an over-hyped Texans team. In addition to big days for the Chiefs running backs and tight ends, don't be surprised if returners Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas break off a big return or two.