Houston Texans vs Kansas City Chiefs Matchup Preview 1/12/20: Analysis, Betting Corner

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This Sunday will feature a Week six rematch between two of the AFC’s best quarterbacks when Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans head to Kansas City to battle the Chiefs. The last time these teams faced off, Watson and the Texans emerged with a victory in what could be considered the Battle of the 2018 Bears Draft Snubs. If the Chiefs hope to avenge their loss, they are going to have to overcome a plethora of injuries, especially in the secondary. Nevertheless, this should be a high-powered game featuring a lot of explosive offensive plays that will keep everyone in the stadium on their feet. For odds line movement, and full matchup history, see the Houston Texans vs Kansas City Chiefs Matchup Page.

TV Schedule:

Date: Sunday, January 12th, 2020
Time: 3:05 PM ET
Location: Arrowhead Stadium – Kansas City, MO
Coverage: CBS

Injury Report:

Houston Texans: J. Addae (Achilles) Q, C. Armstrong (coach’s decision) Q, W. Fuller (groin) Q, J. Joseph (hamstring) Q, J. Akins (hamstring) Q, C. Clark (concussion) Q, T. Gipson (lower back) IR, T. Howard (knee/meniscus) IR, D. Cole (Knee/ACL) IR, P. Gaines (ankle) IR, S. Kelemente (wrist) IR, K. Warring (concussion) IR, J. Webb (foot) IR, D. Steinmetz (ankle) IR, L. Miller (knee/ACL) IR, C. Landrum (undisclosed) IR, I. Savage-Lewis (undisclosed) Q, I. Whitney (wrist) IR, D. Ejiofor (Achilles) IR
Kansas City Chiefs: J. Thornhill (knee/ACL) IR, X. Williams (ankle) Q, M. Claiborne (shoulder) Q, A. Wylie (ankle) Q, B. Breeland (illness) Q, S. Ware (shoulder) IR, A. Okafor (pectoral) IR, D. Williams (hamstring) IR, E. Ogbah (pectoral) IR, M. Rankin (knee) IR, G. Senat (undisclosed) IR, M. Hunter (groin) IR, F. Davis (shoulder) IR, B. Speaks (knee/MCL) IR, J. Lovett (shoulder) IR, M. Kemp (knee) IR, D. Wells (undisclosed) IR, K. Reaser (Achilles) IR

Houston Texans Analysis

Houston Texans
Heading into this playoff game, the most significant injury that impacts the Texans offensively is Will Fuller’s groin injury. During the regular season, Fuller averaged 13.7 yards per reception, which was the second-most among all Houston receivers with at least 20 catches. If Fuller is unable to play, then the Texans are going to need to rely on their other deep threat, Kenny Stills, to gash their Chiefs banged-up secondary with explosive plays deep down the field. Therefore, expect Stills to see an increase in targets, especially on post and fly routes.

Besides Fuller and Stills, the Texans will obviously rely on their elite wideout, DeAndre Hopkins. In the Wild Card round, Hopkins was covered against Tre’Davious White, who is one of the league’s best cornerbacks. Despite the tough matchup, Hopkins hauled in six of his eight targets for 90 yards, including an explosive 41-yard catch. The Texans will need to lean on Hopkins’ hands, considering the fact that he has the seventh-best catch rate among all qualifying WRs. According to NBC Sports, Stills and Fuller both rank in the bottom ten for the most drops by AFC wide receivers.

The man who will be responsible for targeting Hopkins is Deshaun Watson. Last Saturday, Watson was able to throw for 247 yards, complete 80% of his passes, and score two total touchdowns. Throughout this game, Watson was able to display his impeccable mobility by extending plays and moving the chains with both his arms and legs. When at his best, Watson is able to create big plays that energize his team to victories.

However, Watson’s knack to hold on to the ball too long has a tendency to hurt him as well. Last week, Watson exhibited poor pocket presence and was unable to pre-read when pass rushers were set to blitz him. As a result, he was sacked a whopping seven times and somehow was able to avoid other potentially costly pressures. If Watson is going to keep his team in contention to win this game, he needs to do a better job at accurately recognizing blitzes. This is especially against the Chiefs front seven, who accumulated 45 sacks in the regular season.

Over the last two seasons, the Houston Texans’ offensive line has been blamed for their inability to protect Deshaun Watson. In both 2018 and 2019, Deshaun Watson was sacked more than any other QB in the league, with an unfortunate 114 sacks surrendered during that timespan. In addition, the Texans have ranked 32nd and 27th respectively for pass protection in 2018 and 2019 respectively, which indicates that Watson is not entirely to blame for their sack total. Regardless, Bill O’ Brien will need to come up with a creative strategy to fend off a daunting Chiefs front seven.

One way to keep the Chiefs from being over-aggressive is for the Texans to utilize screen passes. The best player to help the Texans in the screen game is Duke Johnson. Throughout the regular season, Johnson was the Texans’ best receiving back as he hauled in 44 catches for 410 yards. Considering that Carlos Hyde is almost non-existent in the receiving game, it would be wise for the Texans to give Duke the majority of touches.

With J.J. Watt back in the Texans’ lineup, Houston will likely lean on him to pressure Patrick Mahomes. Despite missing half the season with a pectoral injury, Watt accumulated the second-most QB sacks and hurries. He also was the Texans’ leader in QB knockdowns, which illustrates how much the Texans front seven depends on him. Given that the Chiefs will likely seek to neutralize Watt’s aggressiveness with double teams, Houston will need players like Whitney Mercilus and D.J. Reader to step up.

Against Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, it will be paramount for the Texans secondary to keep it together. So far in the postseason, the Houston Texans are allowing 253 passing yards per game, which is the second-most in the NFL. To make matters worse, their porous coverage came against Josh Allen, who ranked in the bottom three for passing yards per game in the 2019 regular season. Instead of focusing on limiting Mahomes’ passing yards, it might be better for the Texans to generate turnovers.

Houston Texans Depth Chart

QB: Deshaun Watson
RB1: Duke Johnson
RB2: Carlos Hyde
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins
WR2: Will Fuller
WR3: Keke Coutee
TE: Jordan Akins

Kansas City Chiefs Analysis

Kansas City Chiefs
Despite many analysts predicting Patrick Mahomes to regress in 2019-2020, he had one of the best seasons in the NFL. From an advanced analytics perspective, Mahomes ranked in the top three for DYAR, DVOA, and QBR. This indicates that Mahomes was among the NFL’s most elite signal-callers, and was one of the most valuable quarterbacks in the NFL.

Although three traits that will best suit Mahomes on Sunday are his arm strength, accuracy, and ability to deal with blitzes. According to playerprofiler.com, ranked third in terms of deep ball completion percentage, and fifth concerning pressured completion percentage. Against the Houston Texans’ weak secondary, Mahomes is likely to utilize his deep passing capability to beat cornerbacks like Gareon Conley deep. Plus, Mahomes will need all the poise he has to fend off the two-headed monster of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.

While the Kansas City Chiefs have one of the league’s most explosive passing attacks, their rushing production ranks in the bottom ten. In fact, none of their running backs rank in the top 32 for rushing yards per game. Moreover, their most efficient rusher, LeSean McCoy, ranks 27th among all running backs with a -3.7% DVOA. This illustrates that all of their running backs are below average in terms of value per play, which is extremely troubling.

Rather than relying on their running backs, the Chiefs will need to lean on their tight end, Travis Kelce. Throughout the season, Kelce was the league’s best and most reliable receiving tight end. He was one of the only TE1s who was able to play in all 16 games, while also hauling in 97 catches (eighth-most), 1,229 receiving yards (fourth-most in the NFL) and five touchdowns. Due to his combination of athleticism and size, Kelce will be an incredible mismatch for Mahomes to use against the Texans’ defense.

Aside from Kelce, the Mahomes will benefit from Tyreek Hill’s skills as a deep threat receiver. During the 2019 regular season, Hill ranked in the top ten for yards per reception among all AFC WRs with 14.8 yards per catch. Even though Hill has dealt with troubling injuries over his last two seasons, he is still able to brush past defenders with his mind-blowing speed.

Coming into the 2019-2020 season, the Kansas City Chiefs defense was one of the worst units in the NFL. However this season, they underwent an overhaul by replacing their defensive coordinator with Steve Spagnulo. As a result, they went from the 26th-most efficient defense to the 14th ranked defense, along with the sixth-best passing defense.

Part of their resurgence has come from the fact that they were able to generate 45 sacks in 2019. To counter the offensive fire-power of the Texans, the Chiefs will need to continue their aggressive scheme, especially along the interior and right side of Houston’s OL. If the Chiefs are able to contain Deshaun Watson and send creeper pressure at him, he’ll likely fail to recognize it and get sacked.

Another reason why the Chiefs will want to send heavy blitzes is due to the fact that they are dealing with a litany of injuries in their secondary. Currently, Morris Claiborne and Breshaud Breeland are questionable to play on Sunday. If Breeland is unable to play, the Chiefs will be without their no. 2 cornerback and have to potentially rely on Rashad Fenton and Alex Brown. Even more troubling, their starting rookie safety Juan Thornhill suffered a knee injury that will place him on injured reserve.

Kansas City Chiefs Depth Chart

QB: Patrick Mahomes
RB1: Damien Williams
RB2: LeSean McCoy
WR1: Tyreek Hill
WR2: Sammy Watkins
WR3: Mecole Hardman
TE: Travis Kelce

Betting Pick: Chiefs -9.5

Since taking over as head coach in 2014, Bill O’ Brien has struggled immensely in the playoffs. Throughout his five playoff games, the Texans offense is only averaging 14.4 points per game. Last week, his offense put up zero points in the first half and only came back into the game due to mistakes made by Bills quarterback, Josh Allen.
This week they will take on a red-hot Chiefs team that is averaging a +18.2 point differential since December 1st. Moreover, Kansas City’s defense is holding opponents to an average of 10.4 points per game. Therefore, the Chiefs should have a relatively easy time defeating the Houston Texans by a sizable margin.

Daily Fantasy:

Deshaun Watson
In his last game, Deshaun Watson threw for 247 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for another 55 yards and a TD on the ground. Throughout his tenure as the Texans’ quarterback, Watson and the Texans have had difficulty finding the end-zone in the first half. Nevertheless, Watson’s mobility has enabled him to maximize his fantasy production as a QB1. Against a lackluster defense, Deshaun would continue to be a QB1, however, he is given QB2 status because of his contest against the Chiefs.

Duke Johnson
Duke Johnson is likely to see his role increase against the Kansas City Chiefs. Throughout the 2019-2020 season, the Houston Texans have been unable to protect Deshaun Watson and allowed him to be sacked more than any other QB. In order to lessen the defensive pressures that Watson is likely to face on Sunday, it would be wise for Bill O’ Brien to utilize Johnson in the screen game. As a result, he is a decent flex option with a modest upside.

Patrick Mahomes
Despite suffering a knee injury that kept him out for two games, Patrick Mahomes ranks in the top ten for passing yards, touchdowns, and QBR. Over his last three games, Mahomes has been a relatively solid quarterback, who is averaging nearly 20 fantasy points per game. The last time Mahomes faced the Texans, who threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns. If Mahomes is able to put up similar numbers, he projects to be a QB1 in fantasy.

I am a junior at Morehouse College, majoring in economics. I have experience as a data analyst at Pro Football Focus and as a football scouting intern at Fanteractive.com. I enjoy scouting and analyzing NCAAF and NFL games, especially quarterback and running back play.

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