Can Houston win in Kansas City once again on Sunday?
It's Round Two between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, although there is a little bit more on the line this time as the two teams play for the chance to advance to the AFC Championship game.
Back on Oct. 13, Houston went into Arrowhead Stadium and beat the Chiefs 31-24 behind the arm of Deshaun Watson, who threw for 280 yards and a touchdown. Patrick Mahomes had the better statistical game with three touchdown passes and a slight edge in yards per attempt (7.8 vs. 6.7), but Kansas City's defense couldn't get the stop when it mattered.
Houston showed more of that offensive potential last week when the Texans spotted the Bills a 16-0 lead before they roared back for the 22-19 overtime victory. Watson had just five incompletions, and DeAndre Hopkins got busy in the second half when they needed him. Also of importance was the return of J.J. Watt who had one tackle and one sack. This team went 5-3 on the road this season, including that Week 6 win over the Chiefs.
The Chiefs closed the regular season with a flourish on a six-game winning streak, five of which came after a later bye week. As expected, the offense has been putting up good numbers, but it's the defense that has done a lot of the heavy lifting. We'll get into this later, as I'm not the biggest believer in the resurgence, but they've held their last five opponents to just 52 points combined.
AFC Divisional Playoff: Houston at Kansas City
Kickoff: Sunday, Jan. 12 at 3:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Kansas City -10
Three Things to Watch
For those who are familiar with my articles, this is the place where I talk about aspects related to scheduling — potential trap games, how often teams have been traveling lately, etc. It's the postseason, but there are still some things to consider. It'll be Kansas City's fourth home contest over their last six, and the last time they came off a bye week, the Chiefs put up 40 points on the Raiders. It's widely known how well Andy Reid teams play after a week off. On the other side, it's the Texans' third road game over their last five. I'm not that concerned about the scheduling spot considering they'll have a normal week to prepare for this one.
2. Is Kansas City's defense for real?
As mentioned above, the Chiefs' defense has been putting up some good numbers. They rank in the top 10 in scoring defense (7th), passing defense (8th), and turnovers (10th). What I'm focused on, though, are the opponents that they beat recently. The Raiders, Patriots, Broncos, Bears, and Chargers don't have elite offenses, so it's not surprising to see some sort of success by the D. Now, I'm not completely running down the unit because the late addition of Terrell Suggs has paid off already. The former Raven has three tackles and a sack in two games for Kansas City, and he is a nice addition to the unit with Chris Jones and Frank Clark accounting for 17 sacks. I'll be interested to see how they perform against the Texans who are no slouch on offense.
3. Will Fuller Play?
The Houston offense is just so much better when Will Fuller V is on the field. It's harder to double up DeAndre Hopkins when there's another weapon on the field, and the Texans only squeaked by the Bills last week with Fuller sidelined due to a groin injury. Injuries have prevented Fuller, Hopkins, and Kenny Stills from consistently practicing together during the week, which makes building chemistry with Deshaun Watson harder. Fuller is averaging 13.7 yards per catch with three touchdowns this season, but that is only in 11 contests. Kansas City's secondary can be exploited, but watch Fuller's status to see if he can make a difference on Sunday.
Vegas has Houston as a double-digit underdog in this one, and you can see why. Kansas City's hot and well-rested after the week off. The Texans needed every little bit of effort to beat the Bills last week in overtime. There's also the albatross of having to overcome Bill O'Brien as head coach. Still, I think this one is a bit closer then people expect. Patrick Mahomes will certainly put up points on a beatable Houston secondary, but I think Watson will be able to get his as well. Give me the home team in a closer than expected game.
Prediction: Chiefs 33, Texans 31
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.