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Sunday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Houston Texans Preview and Prediction

Alex Smith

Alex Smith

Heed my warning. Don’t even bother looking at the rest of the NFL schedule this week.

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Unless you’re some sort of die-hard fan or an extreme football masochist, there is no reason to watch the Jets-Browns, Chargers-Giants, Vikings-Bears or 49ers-Colts. Trust me, save yourself.

There isn’t a matchup worth flipping the tube on for until Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth welcome us to “Sunday Night Football.” The NFL’s lone undefeated squad, the Kansas City Chiefs, travel south to take on the Houston Texans — a 2-2 team we are led to believe is good at football. That remains to be seen. But what can’t be debated is that this is the NFL’s premiere Week 5 matchup.

Both teams are coming off notable victories last week. Harrison Butker’s game-winning field goal with eight seconds left followed by Justin Houston’s last-second, scoop-and-score that sent bookies into a frenzy gave Kansas City a big 29-20 win over Washington on Monday night. Meanwhile the Texans absolutely boat raced the Titans, 57-14, in what turned out to be Deshaun Watson’s coming out party in front of the home crowd and a not-so-subtle reminder that the Houston defense is still really, really good.

Kansas City at Houston

Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 8 at 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Kansas City -1

Three Things to Watch

1. Houston’s attacking defense vs. Kansas City’s balanced offense

Last week, the Texans’ defense absolutely confounded a Titans offense that was supposed to be one of the premiere scoring units in the AFC. Houston held Tennessee to just two third-down conversions and only nine first downs while forcing five turnovers (4 INTs, fumble lost). The Texans’ front seven stifled the NFL’s best rushing offense from a season ago, limiting the tandem of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to just 89 yards on the ground combined.

But this week Houston faces arguably the most consistent offense in the NFL right now in Andy Reid’s Chiefs (Man that was weird to type). Kansas City comes to Houston averaging 6.8 yards per offensive play, tops in the league, complemented by the second-ranked offense in terms of total yards (405 ypg) and a top-five turnover margin (+5). It’s the Chiefs’ ability to spread the ball around to playmakers wide receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce, and rookie running back Kareem Hunt that make them so dangerous.

Alex Smith is playing the best football of his 13-year career, leading the NFL in QB rating (124.2) and has yet to throw an interception. Watching Smith square off against J.J. Watt and Co. will be the NFL weekend’s must-watch matchup.

2. Kareem Hunt show

Look at Hunt’s draft profile from this past spring and tell me it isn’t almost comical at this point.

Kareem Hunt: Flex Rankings Week 16

“Can elude initial tackle but struggles to accelerate after redirecting his feet. Average explosion traits. Marginal downhill burst through line of scrimmage.”

Meh, just a little off.

The stocky rookie running back from Toledo has set the NFL on fire through the first four weeks, leading the league in rushing (502 yards, 7.4 ypc.) and turning Kansas City’s offense into a force to be reckoned with (Again, really weird to type). But the third-round draft pick is more than just the No. 1 rusher; he’s also a reliable and explosive receiver out of the backfield. Hunt is fourth on the team with 13 receptions, but it’s what he does after the catch (157 yards and 2 TDs, 12.1 ypr) that makes him so dynamic.

After proving they could stop the Titans’ rushing attack last week, and with a banged-up KC offensive line (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Mitch Morse haven’t practiced this week), the Texans’ defense must limit Hunt’s big-play potential in the passing game or the Chiefs could leave Houston with a 5-0 record.

3. Deshaun Watson

Hunt isn’t the only rookie turning heads so far. After not winning the starting quarterback job in training camp, Watson replaced Tom Savage at halftime in Week 1 and hasn’t looked back. It’s only been three starts for Watson but the dual threat has already made NFL history. Last week, Watson became the first rookie quarterback since Frank Tarkenton in 1961 to throw four touchdown passes and rush for another in a single game. Watson also is the first rookie to throw for seven touchdowns and rush for two more in his first four games. But it isn’t just Watson’s ability to put up points that have the Texans looking like the best team in the AFC South, but his ability to lead and rally his teammates.

While Watson will no doubt have his share of rookie bumps in the road (4 INTs and a lost fumble so far), it appears the Texans finally have their franchise quarterback.

Final Analysis

As the spread indicates, this game is essentially a pick ‘em. While the Texans showed they were the class of the AFC South (for now) a week ago, they have yet to play a team as dangerous on both sides of the ball as the Kansas City Chiefs — a team that has already proven they can win tight games on the road. Give me Alex Smith’s ability to protect the football and the Chiefs’ stable of offensive thoroughbreds over the still-learning Deshaun Watson on Sunday night.

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Prediction: Chiefs 24, Texans 21

— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.