With the Patriots losing Saturday to the Titans and the Texans beating the Bills, we face the Texans on Sunday at 2:05. This isn’t the film review just yet, but here are some of my initial thoughts on the matchup and what to look out for.
Houston’s Poor Offensive Line
The Chiefs and Texans provide each other matchup problems for the opposite team. For the Texans, it starts with their poor offensive line. At left tackle, Laremy Tunsil is their prize guy, but he’s been inconsistent this year. He has 17 penalties in 17 games this year, including 14 false starts. He’s also not very good against blitzes to his side, and he doesn’t ID the blitz well. Max Scharping is the left guard, and he’s really struggled transitioning to the NFL. Nick Martin is fine, but he’s easily beaten upfront. Zach Fulton is a popular guy around here, but he’s easily beat with power. Chris Clark is the right tackle, and he really struggles getting his base wide enough, and can be exposed up the arc.
This offensive line mainly struggles to pick up stunts upfront. Part of that is due to Deshaun Watson not being able to ID the pressure and a lack of pocket awareness, but it’s also an issue upfront. Brendan Daly and Steve Spagnuolo have had two weeks to build up pressure packages up front, so we should be able to hit Watson early and often.
Deshaun Watson Likes to Hold the Ball
Deshaun Watson likes to hold the football. During the season, he held the ball on average for 2.82 seconds, which is tied with Patrick Mahomes for 17th in the league. That list includes backups though, so when you account for guys who’ve played the majority of the season, that number ranks higher. Watson likes to hold it to see if he can hit as many vertical routes as he possibly can, which should allow our defensive line to hit Watson often.
To me, this signifies that we need to blitz Watson into submission. If he wants to hold the ball that long, we need to make him pay for it. If he continues to get hit, he’s going to feel that in his face eventually, and start throwing up poor passes.
Houston Has Good Receivers
If Houston is going to be able to attack one thing Kansas City does, it’s their receivers against our cornerbacks. In week 6 our cornerbacks played the worst they had all season. It could’ve been so much worse, too. Will Fuller dropped 150 yards and two touchdowns last time. Deandre Hopkins only had 48 yards, but if Watson hit 1-2 more throws, he easily could’ve had over 100 yards. They were able to hit us vertically, early and often. Especially without Juan Thornhill, expect a lot of 2-high safety shells this week, to deal with Fuller and Hopkins vertically.
J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus
The Houston defense is nothing to write home about. They’ve had to undergo a lot of personnel and injury change this season, with many guys either being traded or injured. That being said, the one consistent is J.J Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Watt is coming back from a torn pec, but when he’s on the field, he’s still able to dominate as a pass rusher. Mercilus has had another good season as a pass rusher, with 7.5 sacks. He’s tailed off a bit since the beginning of the season, but with Watt back he’s back to getting single-teamed a lot, which could be a problem.
This game rides on the shoulders of Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. As long as we can keep Patrick Mahomes upright and in the pocket, we’ll carve up this defense. The only way this game gets long is if Watt and Mercilus cause a lot of pressure and Mahomes feels uncomfortable. This game will be won and lost by the tackles’ play.
Houston’s Ever-Changing Secondary
Watt and Mercilus are good. The secondary? Not so much. They’ve spent a lot of time and capital trying to fix the secondary, but it’s simply not worked for them. Tashaun Gipson is on IR, which leaves Jahleel Addae as the other safety. The difference in range between the two is extreme, not to mention the lack of ball skills. Justin Reid is good, but without Honey Badger there this year, he’s fallen back to reality. At cornerback, the Texans have tried hard to take former first-round busts and turn them into good players, but it simply hasn’t worked. Bradley Roby is their best corner, but he can be easily exposed. Gareon Conley is fine, but we’ve been able to pick on him when he was in Oakland. Vernon Hargreaves plays in the slot, and while he’s better than what they had, he’s been a massive disappointment in Houston.
This should be a week where we have a massive advantage throwing the ball. Houston will try hard to press our receivers in a two-high shell, but with our playmakers rested, we should be able to dominate their secondary. Expect a potential 400+ yard performance from Mahomes this week.
The Damien Williams Week
I mentioned it above, but the Houston Texans will play a lot of man coverage. They may not against us as much, but they’re an aggressive defense that wants to challenge you. That leaves a lot of linebacker vs running back matchups out of the backfield. While Bennardick McKinney and Zach Cunningham aren’t bad linebackers, I feel neither is put in the right spot in man coverage a lot.
To me, this screams out to be a Damien Williams week. I expect Andy Reid to challenge those linebackers, demanding they run with Williams to the flat and let him make plays. We should be able to get easy completions with flat routes, but also wheel routes. We hit them with a lot of wheel routes in week 6, but with Daryl Williams that time. This time around, with a much faster receiving back and more explosive player, expect Williams to play at a dominant level.