Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans (-2.5, 43 o/u)
Week 2 in the NFL arrived Thursday night as the Jets outlasted the Bills. The games continue tomorrow and one of the premier tilts is a rematch of last year’s Wild Card round as the Kansas City Chiefs (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS) head to Houston to take on the Texans (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) at NRG Stadium (1:00 PM ET).
By now, I’m sure Alex Smith’s new nickname, “La Seguridad,” is sweeping the nation. Wait, you haven’t heard about it yet? Quick, listen to our podcast to ensure you’re not left behind.
Not only is Smith Mr. Safety with the ball when his team is up, he also takes care of the rock when Andy Reid removes his training wheels. This was evident in the Chiefs’ massive 33-27 (OT) come-from-behind victory over the Chargers in Week 1, when Smith went 34 of 48 for 363 yards, two TDs, and a one INT.
Playing the role of Smith’s sidekick in the comeback (the largest in Chiefs’ history) was Spencer Ware (11 carries for 70 yards and a TD; seven receptions for 129 yards), who was filling in for the injured Jamaal Charles. But, as is expected, Smith spread the ball around all day; both Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce recorded more than 60 yards receiving.
Despite the Chiefs recording the win on Sunday, there is no way Andy Reid overlooked the first half of that game – when his team was outscored 21-3 – in the team’s preparations for Week 2. The usually stingy Chief defense was gashed on the ground for 155 yards at an average of 4.8 yards per tote. Their secondary was struggling mightily to keep Keenan Allen in check and, without his devastating knee injury late in the second quarter, the Chiefs may not have had a chance to catch up – San Diego had scored a touchdown on every drive with Allen in the game.
The pass rush was another point of concern for the Chiefs defense, recording just one sack. Many feared that their pass-rush would not be the same without Justin Houston, but no one expected it to be virtually non-existent.
As troubling as all of that may be for Kansas City, they escaped the week with a victory and have now had a week to address their issues.
Unlike the Chiefs, the Texans Week 1 victory came in a much more convincing fashion, beating the Bears 23-14. But Houston wasn’t running away with this game from the opening kickoff; the Bears found themselves up 7-0 before a turnover on a botched snap deep in Houston territory on an attempted fourth down quarterback sneak awoke the Texans offense.
Brock Osweiler improved from his preseason performances and played his best game yet in a Texans jersey, going 22 of 35 for 231 yards, two TDs, and one INT. Those numbers would have been bigger had both DeAndre Hopkins (five receptions for 54 yards, and a TD) and Will Fuller (five receptions for 107 yards, and a TD) been able to come down with a couple catchable balls in the endzone.
They also would have been bigger if Osweiler hadn’t left some big plays out there, himself. He overthrew Fuller on what could have been a long touchdown pass and had another ball sail on him trying to find Fuller again for a deep strike.
Houston’s other big offseason acquisition, Lamar Miller, had a very busy day, rushing for 106 yards on 28 carries and adding 11 yards receiving on four catches. After seeing what San Diego did to Kansas City’s defense in Week 1, Houston’s game-plan for Sunday is sure to be full of Miller touches.
Defensively, the Texans allowed the Bears to put together two long touchdown drives, but Jay Cutler and company would only manage eight first downs on their other ten drives of the game and were limited to 258 total yards.
It was clear that J.J. Watt was not up to full strength yet. Watt is sure to be making his usual noise in the pass rush soon enough. The same can’t be said for Brian Cushing, who sprained his MCL in the first quarter of Week 1. Second-year pro Max Bullough finished the game in Cushing’s place and will likely stay in that role in Week 2.
As mentioned, this is a rematch of last year’s Wild Card matchup, which was absolutely dominated by Kansas City, 30-0. The game saw five Texan turnovers, four of which were Brian Hoyer interceptions. I don’t see Osweiler laying the same egg that Hoyer did in January. I do expect a much better showing from the Chiefs’ defense than we saw in Week 1.
The injury to Brian Cushing will harm the Texans, most noticeably against the run, and even with Jamaal Charles being doubtful for this tilt, the Chiefs have found a weapon in Spencer Ware.
This game will come down to which offense makes the most mistakes, and it’s unreasonable to believe “La Seguridad” will be the one committing the errors. Smith will protect the ball against a very tough Texans defense, exploiting Houston’s safeties and linebackers in matchups with big tight end Travis Kelce. The Chiefs defense won’t pitch a shutout in this one, but they’ll take advantage of the couple misfires that Osweiler is bound to make. Give me the points on the road.
Pick: Kansas City Chiefs (+2.5)
Photo credit: April Spreeman (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/].