Kansas City Chiefs vs. Houston Texans: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Houston Texans: Prediction, preview, pick to win
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) drops back for a pass in the second quarter of the NFL season opener against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on September 7, 2017. File photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo




KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NRG Stadium. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: Ninth regular-season meeting. Series tied, 4-4. The Chiefs have won two of the past three, but they lost 19-12 in Houston last season.

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KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chiefs offensive game plan remains remarkable consistent through four games, with quarterback Alex Smith keeping the team in the game for three quarters and then pounding away with rookie running back Kareem Hunt as the closer in the fourth quarter. Kansas City's four-man pass-rush should get pressure on rookie Deshaun Watson, but they showed a susceptibility to mobile quarterbacks last week. The Chiefs defense needs to create turnovers to limit a Texans offense coming off a big week against Cincinnati.

The Texans will keep running read option plays with rookie Deshaun Watson distributing the ball to his backs and looking downfield to wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. The defense will attempt to contain quarterback Alex Smith, running back Kareem Hunt and tight end Travis Kelce, the Chiefs' primary playmakers.



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--Chiefs offensive line vs. Texans front seven. The Chiefs' line , ranks 30th in the league, allowing four sacks per game. And now it faces the crew that sacked QB Alex Smith four times in last year's matchup. Kansas City's line remains in flux, with injuries to four starters hurting the team's pass protection. The Chiefs also allow more than six quarterback hits per game on Smith. So far Smith has avoided turning the ball over in the face of increased pressure, but the passing game struggled mightily last season against the Texans.

--Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Chiefs CB Terrance Mitchell. Hopkins leads the league with 31 receptions, and Mitchell ranks third in the league with two interceptions. Hopkins torched the Chiefs' secondary for seven catches, 113 yards and a touchdown in the Texans' win over Kansas City last year. But that was before the arrival of Mitchell, who solidified the team's secondary opposite All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters. Most teams choose to throw toward Mitchell's side of the field.


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--Out: G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (knee), LB Dee Ford (back), C Mitch Morse (foot)



--Out: G Kyle Fuller (hamstring), LB Ben Heeney (knee), CB Kevin Johnson (knee)

--Questionable: C Greg Mancz (knee)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Chiefs WR Albert Wilson. The Chiefs' No. 3 wide receiver delivered one of the team's biggest plays last week, hauling in a 37-yard catch from Alex Smith to set up the winning field goal. Wilson ranks third on the team with 14 catches and fourth with 140 yards. The Chiefs' offense relies on Wilson for many sweeps and motion plays, often performing physical work underneath and in the slot. He leads the team in first-down catch percentage, converting 10 of his 14 catches.

FAST FACTS: The Chiefs are 4-0 for the fourth time in franchise history (also 1996, 2003 and 2013). Kansas City has won six straight regular-season games dating to Week 16 in 2016. ... Chiefs QB Alex Smith leads the NFL with 124.2 rating and 76 completion percentage. He is one of three QBs with at least eight TD passes and no interceptions. ... Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt rushed for 101 yards in Week 4 and leads the NFL with 502 yards. He has 659 scrimmage yards, second-most by a player in his first four NFL games (Billy Sims had 745). Hunt's six TDs are No. 2 in the NFL. ... Chiefs TE Travis Kelce had 111 receiving yards and a TD catch last week. He has eight games with 100 yards since 2016, tied for most in the NFL. He had 106 yards and two TDs in the 2015 game against Houston. ... Chiefs LB Justin Houston returned a fumble for a TD last week. He has four sacks in his past four games and has 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his past two games vs. Houston. ... Houston QB DeShaun Watson completed 25 of 34 (73.5 pct.) for 283 yards with 4 TDs vs. 1 INT and rushed for a TD last week. He joined Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton as the only rookie QBs with 250 passing yards, four passing TDs and a rushing TD in a single game in NFL history. ... Houston WR DeAndre Hopkins caught 10 passes for 107 yards and a TD in Week 4. He leads the NFL with 31 receptions. In three career meetings, he has 287 yards and four TD catches. ... Houston DE J.J. Watt has 4.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a recovery in the past three meetings.


PREDICTION: These teams are surprising offensive juggernauts, combining to average 58 points per game. Turnovers likely will decide this one, which means the veteran QB gets the edge over the rookie.

OUR PICK: Chiefs, 27-23.

--Chris Cluff

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