1:00 PM EST, CBS – Line: Chiefs -4, Over/Under: 55
The future (and perhaps the present) of the NFL is showcased this week as the Kansas City Chiefs look to bounce back from their first defeat of the season, as they host the Houston Texans from Arrowhead Stadium, in Kansas City, Missouri. After winning the division for the third time in four years, the Texans (3-2, T-1st in AFC South) entered 2019 desperate to take the next step in their evolution, though four games into the term it’s still a valid question as to if they’re in fact primed to do exactly that. The pressure on Bill O’Brien & Co to produce rose to another level when the Head Coach played the role of de facto General Manager, conducting a series of moves shortly before the start of campaign, acquiring young Left Tackle, Laremy Tunsil, alongside veteran Receiver, Kenny Stills (11 REC, 188 YDS, 17.1 Y/R, 1 TD), in a deal with the Miami Dolphins, while packaging Pro-Bowl Edge-Rusher, Jadeveon Clowney in a separate trade with the Seattle Seahawks, receiving a midround pick and depth in return. Houston relinquished precious assets in an attempt to finally solve a perennially underperforming Offensive Line, while further bolstering an Offense that while top-heavy with star power, lacked overall depth. Five games into the season, and we can see the unit as a whole really starting to take shape; thus far, the Texans have averaged 26.2 Points per Game (9th Overall) on 402.2 Total Yards (9th Overall), including 272.8 Yards through the air (11th Overall) on 7.09 Net Yards per Attempt (6th Overall), along with another 129.4 Yards on the ground (10th Overall) on 5.1 Yards per Carry (9th Overall), while converting a stellar 53.2% of their Third Downs (1st Overall), an scoring a Touchdown on 73.3% of their trips to the Red Zone (2nd Overall). It’s clear that they’re trending upward, particularly after last weekend’s eruption at home against the Atlanta Falcons in a 53-32 victory. Simply put, O’Brien’s charges did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, racking up a staggering 592 Total Yards on Thirty-One First Downs, including 425 Yards through the air and another 166 Yards on the ground, and converting a whopping 10-of-13 Third Downs. In a game in which Defense was indeed an afterthought, the difference in the affair was in the Third Quarter, where the hosts emerged from Halftime and proceeded to run off seventeen unanswered points to break the game wide open. After punting on their first drive, the home side scored on all but one of the ensuing nine drives, with seven of them traveling at least sixty yards. Deshaun Watson (69.2%, 1,364 YDS, 7.13 NY/A, 11 TD, 1 INT, 76.2 QBR) had himself a game, completing an efficient 28-of-33 Attempts for 426 Yards and Five Touchdowns, though most notably suffered ZERO Sacks, which was the first time he could proudly enjoy that distinction since October 25th of 2018. This is huge, folks, for the third-year Quarterback is obviously essential to the team’s success, and after being sacked a league-high SIXTY-TWO times last season, must be protected better, hence the reason for O’Brien’s gambit for Tunsil. Coming into Sunday’s contest, Watson had been sacked on eighteen occasions already, including six in the previous outing against the Carolina Panthers. Afforded time in the Pocket, the 24-Year Old enjoyed a wealth of success, particularly when targeting Will Fuller (28 REC, 400 YDS, 14.3 Y/R, 3 TD), who certainly appears to be fully healthy following offseason knee surgery. The vertical threat reeled in Fourteen Receptions on Sixteen Targets for a career-high 217 Yards and Three Touchdowns, the latter two of which went for thirty-three and forty-four yards. Though they relinquished a season-worst thirty-two points, credit also goes to the Defense, who forced the Falcons to punt on three straight possessions in the Third Quarter, which was coincidentally when their teammates sprinted ahead, and ended eh affair altogether when veteran Safety, Tashaun Gipson (19 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 QBH, 1 INT, 1 TD, 3 PD), picked off Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, returning the football seventy-nine yards for an emphatic score. Getting back to Watson for a moment, today’s showdown with the Chiefs will put him in the same frame of the league’s reigning MVP, Patrick Mahomes, whom was selected just two spots ahead of him in the 2017 NFL Draft. As they face off against each other for the first time, it’s inevitable that they will be compared throughout their respective careers, with the former providing stiff competition to the latter for that coveted trophy this season, posting career-highs in a slew of categories, including Completion Percentage (69.2%), Passing Yards per Game (272.8), Yards per Attempt (8.6), Net Yards per Attempt (7.13), Interception Percentage (0.6%), and Passer Rating (115.9).
Meanwhile, for the first time this season, the Chiefs (4-1, 1st in AFC West) find themselves coming off a loss, licking their wounds following last weekend’s narrow 13-19 defeat at home to the Indianapolis Colts. The most shocking takeaway from that contest was how the visitors managed to corral what up until that point had been the league’s most prolific Offense; the hosts entered Sunday Night averaging 33.5 Points per Game on 474.8 Total Yards, including 373.0 Yards through the air, but could manage just thirteen points on 324 Total Yards in that loss. In a game in which the visiting side came through with a very clear game plan, could it be that the blueprint to beating Kansas City has been revealed? Indianapolis rushed for 180 Yards on a whopping Forty-Five Carries, leading to a commanding 37:15 advantage in Time of Possession. That means that Andy Reid’s charges held the football for a scant 22:45, which really effected their potency; the Chiefs rushed for just Thirty-Six Yards on Fourteen Carries, while converting on a miserable 4-of-12 Third Downs, and if not for a ridiculous 27-Yard Touchdown Pass from Patrick Mahomes (65.6%, 1,831 YDS, 8.81 NY/A, 11 TD, 0 INT, 82.9 QBR) to Bryon Pringle (8 REC, 123 YDS, 15.4 Y/R, 1 TD) early in the Second Quarter, there was little to get excited about for the home side. While most Quarterbacks would take his stat line any week, the reigning MVP didn’t appear himself, completing 22-of-39 Passes for 321 Yards and a Touchdown, though was under pressure throughout the night, suffering Four Sacks for a loss of Thirty-Three Yards, while taking Eight Quarterback Hits. At one point in the Second Half, he seemed to sprain his ankle, effecting his mobility as the Colts’ Defense continued to tee off on him. Coming into the game, Kansas City was already without a number of prominent figures on this side of the football, including Pro-Bowl Receiver, Tyreek Hill (2 REC, 16 YDS, 8.0 Y/R, 0 TD), who has missed the past four games with a shoulder injury, alongside Tailback, Damien Williams (Knee), and most recently Left Tackle, Eric Fisher (Groin), while fellow Tackle, Andrew Wylie, left the contest with a sprained ankle of his own. The other part of the equation was the Defense, which once again proved to be the weak link for this contender. Following last season’s bitter defeat to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Reid made it a point to correct this side of the football, bringing in his former associate, Steve Spagnuolo, to overhaul a unit that was in dire need of it. Out with the longtime 3-4 scheme of his predecessor, and in with a more traditional 4-3 front featuring more Zone Blitzes and simpler coverages. To further aid this transition, Kansas City made a plethora of moves in the Offseason to add personnel to better fit his scheme, acquiring the likes of Defensive End, Frank Clark (11 TKL, 3 TFL, 2 QBH, 1.0 SK, 1 INT, 1 PD), in a Draft Day Trade with the Seattle Seahawks, Linebacker, Darron Lee (14 TKL), in a later trade with the New York Jets, Pro-Bowl Defensive Back, Tyrann Mathieu (19 TKL, 2 TFL, 1 QBH, 1.0 SK, 1 INT, 4 PD), along with Cornerback, Bashaud Breeland (16 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 FR, 1 TD, 1 INT, 4 PD), in Free Agency. Five games into the season, it’s clear that this group is still very much a work in progress; Spagnuolo’s troops have allowed 22.6 Points per Game (14th Overall) on 393.0 Total Yards (25th Overall), proving particularly susceptible to the Run, yielding 155.8 Rushing Yards (30th Overall) on a dismal 5.3 Yards per Carry (31st Overall). As teams look to follow the blueprint of keeping Mahomes & Co sidelined, the Run Defense must show some significant improvement, for each of the last three opponents have gashed them for 180 or more Yards, equating to an average of 189.7 Yards relinquished over that span. Needless to say, this group’s performance directly effects that of the Offense, particularly the Quarterback, who is more than capable of moving down the field in a hurry. After such an impressive Sophomore Season, Mahomes is on pace for an even better 2019, as hard as that may be to fathom, completing 65.6% of his Attempts for a staggering 366.2 Yards per Game, which leads the NFL, and dwarfs his figure of 318.6 from the previous term.