Your Houston Texans are about to make a road trip to take on the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs...with a third string undrafted free agent quarterback...making his first career start...against the league's most ferocious pass rush...in a stadium that just set a noise record.
What could possibly go wrong?
I know optimism is what some readers want to see right now, but there are times when I simply cannot avoid being a realist. Sure, Case Keenum could step in and wow people with unforeseen talent and physical skills, but the probability of Keenum being the next Tony Romo are slim to none. Those chances only decrease when his time to shine is coming against Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Dontari Poe, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers, and Eric Berry.
To get a better idea of what Gary Kubiak's
Hail Mary second year pet project is up against, I questioned Arrowhead Pride's Joel Thorman about his beloved Chiefs.
1. Alex Smith has done his best to play mistake-free football, which seems to be all the Chiefs needed for their talented roster to finally start stringing together the wins they were expected to get last season. That being said, Alex Smith will not be around forever and he is somewhat limited in terms of throwing deep and digging teams out of holes. Is quarterback still at the top of the draft list come April for the long term?
Great question. I would say probably not. At least right now. The Chiefs spent a lot of money on Chase Daniel as a back-up and even though he struggled in the preseason, I think he's probably sticking around for another year.Tyler Bray is third on the depth chart and a talented undrafted free agent. He has a big arm and there could be some potential there. So with those two plus Alex, I just don't see the Chiefs going after another quarterback high in the draft. It's possible, sure, but the Chiefs made a big investment in Alex -- two second round picks -- and I just don't see them jumping ship, especially when the team is 6-0.
2. What is Anthony Fasano's status? Is he expected to play this week? If so, what does he bring to the offense?
Fasano has been out since Week 2. It was initially an ankle injury and later a knee injury was added. He indicated this week that his injury is something that will be nagging throughout the season, something he'll just have to play through. He could be available this week. This is the first week since he was out where it seems there's a legitimate chance he could play. He gives the Chiefs more options at tight end. Sean McGrath has done a good job filling in for him but Kevin Brock, the second tight end with Fasano out, is probably a reserve tight end for a reason. Fasano is a good blocker so he helps in that area, but mostly he gives Alex Smith another option in the passing game, especially at a position that he likes to throw to. Fasano's possible return isn't a game-changer but it does make the Chiefs better.
3. Where was this Dontari Poe last year? I mean...just...holy crap. The man is being triple and double teamed on every snap and is still gaining ground into the back field. What has changed?
A combination of Dontari Poe making a HUGE leap from year one to year two (which players do sometimes) and the Chiefs moving to a one-gap system. You take the best-case scenario for Poe when he was drafted, and that's what you have right now. Poe is allowed to use his athleticism more now, rushing the passer more than he did before, which the statistics bear out (4.5 sacks this season). He's no longer just there to take up space. He can penetrate and use his unique size, strength and speed to collapse the pocket. The Chiefs have two very good edge rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston but I don't think they're as successful as they have been this year without Poe collapsing the middle of the pocket. I can't emphasize how much of a game-changer Poe's play has been. People will point to Houston and Hali's sack numbers as evidence of the Chiefs defensive dominance, but for me it all starts with Poe.
4. Justin Houston has a shot at the sack record if he keeps his current 9.5 sack pace up through December. He obviously has made a mockery of his third round selection so far, but just how good could he be? Is this the best it can get? Do you think he will get the sack record?
At the pace he's on now, sure he's got a shot. I think the Chiefs are more concerned about total sacks though, which is why I wonder if he'll get it. The Chiefs are willing to have a quiet game from Houston if it means things free up for Tamba. They will scheme for what's best for the team. Houston has 7.5 sacks in two games, so I do think he will have a couple more multi-sack games. I don't think ultimately he ends up with the sack record. Part of the reason is I just keep thinking, "They can't possibly keep this pace up ... right?" I mean they can't, right?
5. Your prediction for the game?
Give me 19-16, Chiefs. I know Texans fans are down on their team but opponents still look at them and see a lot of talent. J.J. Watt can change a game on his own and make things miserable for Alex Smith, which he probably will. The Chiefs' run defense will be tested against Arian Foster. Ultimately, I think turnovers will bite the Texans in the behind, leading to a Chiefs victory.
Thank you to Joel for taking some time out of his day to talk to us. You can read his and the rest of his staff's stellar writing on the Chiefs over at Arrowhead Pride.