In order to get a better understanding of the current state of affairs before the Texans’ Divisional Round playoff game with the Kansas City Chiefs, Battle Red Blog spoke with Arrowhead Pride contributor Tom Childs.
Thank you Tom for participating in the conversation!
1. What is different about the Chiefs today than when they met the Texans in Week 6 earlier this year?
Well, where do I begin with this one? I’m not kidding when I say that the Chiefs team of Week 6 is basically a completely different team than the Chiefs team of January.
First of all, let’s start with the simple stuff: personnel.
On that day in October, the following Chiefs were either inactive or playing hurt: Eric Fisher, Sammy Watkins, Anthony Hitchens, Andrew Wylie, Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Tyreek Hill and Patrick Mahomes. An injury list half that would make me slice the Chiefs’ chances, but to play with all of these guys either hurt or out completely? It’s a miracle that it was even a game going into the second half.
Secondly, the defense is playing at a level we could have only dreamed about at One Arrowhead Drive. The introduction and usage of Tyrann Mathieu has been a masterstroke from general manager Brett Veach and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. His play alone has enabled the Chiefs’ defense to mix things up and get creative. When you add all of the other pieces and tools Spagnuolo has at hand, the results have been extraordinary. It’s almost like he has been able to find his inner mad scientist.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, the Chiefs have rediscovered their swagger. The mixture of youth, talent, speed, drive and focus means the Chiefs are a highly likable team to follow and a nightmare to play against. The players believe their names will be on that trophy come February 2nd, and no one can stop them.
2. Finish the sentence: The Chiefs will lose this game because...
…Deshaun Watson will find his inner 2018 Patrick Mahomes.
Now let me make this clear, Texans Nation (is that a thing?) I am not saying that the Texans’ 2019 roster is as lopsided as the 2018 Chiefs roster. The 2018 Chiefs could arguably be the most one-dimensional side of all time, but that’s a debate for another time. I am also not saying anything about Watson, who has been great since entering the league.
What I am saying is that in order for the Texans to win this game, Watson will have to drag his team through the mud in a way that we haven’t seen since…well, last week. We saw in the Wild Card round that when the team’s back was against the wall, it was Watson that lifted it to victory against a not-very-good Bills team. I love Watson; I really do.
Way back in April 2017, I would have been delighted had the Chiefs drafted Watson. It’s blindingly obvious that Mahomes, Watson and Lamar Jackson are the future torchbearers for quarterback play in this league.
Many fancy a shootout on Sunday, so an average-to-very good performance from Watson will likely not be enough against a red hot Chiefs team. But an elite performance with zero turnovers may just punch the Texans’ ticket to the AFC title game.
3. Who is an under-the-radar player on offense and defense that has made a major impact this year? Why?
It’s hard to find an under-the-radar player on this Chiefs’ offense because it is one of the most well known units in the entire league, but just in case some of your readers aren’t as familiar with Kansas City, I am going with the speedster, wide receiver Mecole Hardman. The motive behind him being drafted has caused some debate among Chiefs fans, but the impact he has had has gone above and beyond everyone’s expectations, no matter what side of the fence you sit on.
He’s the type of player that the defense will always need to account for because he has a special ability to hit big plays. When the offense got off to a slow start in New England, it was Hardman that sprung the side into life. When the Chiefs faced a bit of adversity against the Chargers two weeks ago, again, it was Hardman that reversed the Chiefs’ fortunes.
When Hardman contributes, it normally means good things for the Chiefs.
On defense, there are certainly a few more guys to choose from, but I am going to go with defensive tackle Mike Pennel or MVPennel as he is known to some. This guy was signed as a response to Carlos Hyde cutting through the Chiefs’ defense like a hot knife through butter. There was a clear Achilles heel in the defense and the Chiefs needed to act, so in came Pennel.
When you dig deep on the numbers, he doesn’t exactly jump off the page, but since his arrival, the Chiefs have only allowed a single 100-yard rusher in games he has been active in, which was, in fact, his first game for the team. Before his arrival, the Chiefs allowed four such rushers in just seven games.
4. How much do you think the Chiefs’ bye affects this game?
It’s a huge factor. In fact, I would say it is the single most important factor in this entire game.
You will no doubt be sick to death of hearing this stat by the time the game kicks off, but Andy Reid is 18-3 after a bye week in his career, 7-1 of that while coaching the Chiefs if you include the NFL Playoffs. I don’t know what it is specifically about having extra time to prepare, but “Big Red” embraces it as no other coach has in the entire history of the game.
Not only that, but you have to factor in the physical toll of playing an extra game. While the Texans found themselves in a battle with Buffalo, the Chiefs were sitting comfortably on their sofas at home. After a long, hard slog of a season, a week to let your body heal can only be a good thing.
5. Final score prediction?
As you can probably tell, I like this match-up for the Chiefs. The Texans have the confidence of already winning in Arrowhead to fall back on, but as I discussed earlier, this Chiefs team is a different animal right now. Kansas City has a feel good feeling about itself and the look of a team that knows they belong at the top.
This prediction is more about where I feel the Chiefs are right now as opposed to my opinion of the Texans. Houston has a lot going for it, and I look forward to the gap between the two teams closing over the next few years, but at this moment, I can’t predict anything else than the Chiefs winning by a couple of scores, 31-17.
Thanks for having me, Texans Nation, but I’ve got a feeling I shouldn’t read the comments.