Last week, the Houston Texans defeated the Buffalo Bills to advance to the NFL’s AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs, where they meet the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday (3:05 PM ET on CBS).
While the Chiefs were enjoying a much-deserved bye week, the Texans were fighting for their playoff lives in an incredibly competitive matchup against the Bills. After going down 13-0 at halftime (16-0 near the start of the third quarter) and their offense looking quite a shell of itself, the Texans found their way and stormed back with a vengeance. They just needed one play to change the game, and as it turned out, it was a play by the team’s emotional leader that did the trick.
Returning to the field for the first time since October 27th, JJ Watt made a critical sack of Bills’ QB Josh Allen that gave the Texans a much-needed spark. Then, spurred on by DeShaun Watson and all-pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the Texans rallied to score 19 unanswered points. The Bills tied it up, sending the game into overtime, where it was another huge defensive play that kept Houston’s 2019-20 season alive. Then, it was Watson, who somehow avoided a sack as the Texans were driving down the field that allowed the team ultimately to kick the game-winning field goal.
It certainly wasn’t a gimme win, but it was a gutsy one. It also supported the feeling that Texans’ fans and players have espoused for a while. As long as #4 is on the field, Houston is never out of a game. On Sunday, they’ll need #4 and the rest of his teammates, to play better throughout all four quarters as an early deficit to the Chiefs could signal a long night for the Texans. However, if Houston plays the way that they are capable of, it won’t be easy, but the team will certainly have a chance to shock the AFC’s No. 2 seed.
The Better Dual Threat: DeShaun Watson vs Patrick Mahomes
When looking at some of the critical matchups that could determine a football game, people often disparage the comparison of one quarterback versus another. Because, the reality is, those two quarterbacks won’t share the field for even one single play. It won’t be Patrick Mahomes facing DeShaun Watson. It will be Mahomes taking on the Texans’ 28th ranked defense. It will be Watson taking on the Chiefs’ 17th ranked defense.
The defenses aren’t great and they certainly aren’t an area of strength for these teams. That is why the matchup of Mahomes vs Watson is going to be one to watch. It’s not so much about the two going head-to-head but rather in seeing which of these two young stud QBs can make the most of their favorable matchups. In addition to overall defense, the Chiefs rank 26th against stopping the run, while the Texans rank 25th. For these two quarterbacks, it’s all about the run.
Watson and Mahomes are more than capable passers of course, both ranking in the top 15 in the NFL. Their biggest strengths come through their legs. Watson and Mahomes are the two best dual threat quarterbacks not named Lamar Jackson, left in the postseason. On the year, Watson rushed 82 times for 413 yards and seven touchdowns. Mahomes ran the ball 43 times for 218 yards and two scores. The ability not to just scramble in the pocket but create a positive play when you have no down field options, is huge for a QB especially in today’s NFL. Both Watson and Mahomes do that masterfully. Knowing that either QB could be a threat to run at any time makes a defense have to rethink its game plan. It also means they have to be a little bit smarter in terms of how they use their 11 men.
Sunday’s matchup is going to provide a tough test for two defenses that have really struggled defending the run this year. Now, when looking purely at running back stats, it wouldn’t seem that Kansas City or Houston would have to worry that much. Of the two teams, Kansas City’s Damien Williams is the highest ranked back, but just the 39th best rusher in the NFL. Three quarterbacks have better rushing stats than him. For the Texans, it is even worse as their top rusher is the 48th best in the league and it is in fact Watson himself. Running back Duke Johnson is 49th, with just 410 yards and 83 carries on the year.
This game will be determined by the men under center. That doesn’t mean the one with more running yards on the day will be the one who advances. It just means, that the biggest matchup to watch on Sunday is who has the better stats altogether, Watson or Mahomes.
The Weapons: Travis Kelce vs DeAndre Hopkins
Good quarterbacks need good supporting casts and both Watson and Mahomes have that big time. Two guys in particular stand out and both of them were among the best in the league. Starting with Kansas City, among eligible pass catchers in the NFL, tight end Travis Kelce finished his season as the fourth best receiver and the only tight end in the top 10. In Houston, DeAndre Hopkins, the only active player to have been named first-team all pro in each of the last three seasons, ranked 11th in the NFL in receiving yards.
Both Hopkins and Kelce are weapons that any quarterback would wish to have as the two are reliable, consistent and just very good. The Texans saw that first hand last week when they went down 16-0, at which point Hopkins hadn’t caught a single pass, only to charge back to take the lead and win thanks to Hopkins’ final line of 90 receiving yards on six receptions. On the season, Hopkins was targeted 150 times, which he converted into 104 receptions, third most in the league. That means Hopkins caught 70 percent of the passes thrown his way. Kelce, who finished the year with his fourth straight 1,000-yard receiving season and a firm status of the best tight end in the NFL, caught 97 passes out of 136 targets. That’s a little over 71 percent of his targets converted into receptions.
Reliable, consistent and just very good. Look for both Kelce and Hopkins to play big roles in Sunday’s outcome.
Our Preview’s Houston Texans vs Kansas City Chiefs Predictions & Betting Picks Opinion
At home, where they have made Arrowhead Stadium not just the loudest place, but one of the toughest to play in, the Chiefs are heavy favorites with the best online sportsbooks. As for our Houston Texans vs Kansas City Chiefs predictions and tips:
- The Chiefs have covered the spread in their last six, but in this one take Houston +9.5pts @ -110 with Bovada, 5Dimes or Intertops. They can at least keep it close.
- For the second of the picks, go over 51.5 total points @ best odds of -105 with Bovada, given these are two high-powered offenses.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.