The Texans (3-2) travel to Kansas City (4-1) for a Week 6 matchup. Here are five things to watch when the two squads square off at noon CT inside Arrowhead Stadium. First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.
1) Watson rewind? – Deshaun Watson and the offense erupted for scores on eight of their 10 possessions last Sunday, with touchdowns coming on six of those drives. He tossed for five of those scores, and now has 11 touchdown passes in 2019, with a lone interception.
Houston's played on the road twice through the first five this season, winning once and losing once, and scoring a combined 55 points. More of the same will likely be needed against a Chiefs' offense that's put up 29.6 per game in 2019.
Kansas City head coach Andy Reid is impressed with Watson's pocket presence, as well as what he can do when he uses his legs.
"He can do that, so if things break down, he can still make things happen," Reid said. "At the same time, when he's in the pocket he makes things happen, and their offensive line has done a nice job for him."
Watson wasn't sacked against Atlanta, and he was hit just once. Staying clean was a key reason he and the offense were so successful, and they'll look to continue that against the Chiefs.
"For every quarterback, if you don't get touched while you're throwing the ball, you have time, then you can make a lot of plays, especially nowadays with the rules – the DBs can't touch you after five yards and you can't really guard for six seconds," Watson said. "So if you have time in the pocket and you're not getting pressured like that, of course you can sit back there and kind of throw the ball around and have success."
2) Pick your poison – Watson can throw to the best receiver in the game in All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins. He can go to Will Fuller V, who exploded for 14 catches, 217 yards and three scores against Atlanta. Keke Coutee needed just three catches to pick up 72 yards last Sunday. Darren Fells caught a pair of touchdowns in that win. Jordan Akins caught two scores at Los Angeles.
There are many reliable, explosive pass-catchers on the Texans offense. Receiver Kenny Stills might play, but will be a gametime decision because of injury. Fuller described the mindset of the receiving corps.
"We feel like our receivers -- me, Kenny, Hop and Keke – we can take over a game at any point," Fuller said.
Hopkins typically draws the most attention in coverage, as he did last week. He still managed to catch seven passes for 88 yards in the win, despite routinely having two or more defenders assigned to him.
"Not a lot of people are going to go out there and just line up in man against me, unless they really believe in them," Hopkins explained. "But that's why we've got guys like Will, tight ends and running backs to go out there and step up when there are two of three guys on me."
Keep an eye on how the Chiefs' secondary tries to account for Hopkins and company.
3) Ground goals – Through five games, the Texans ground game has been excellent. On the whole, the offense is good for 5.1 yards per carry. Running backs Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson have combined to average 4.9 yards per carry.
Houston won't force the run. But being able to pick up chunks of yardage on the ground will go a long way toward keeping the Chiefs honest on defense. Hyde, in particular, drew the praise of Kansas City's defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo this week.
"I see a player that really fits the system and what they're doing down there, and he's doing a really good job at it," Spagnuolo said.
Houston picked up 166 yards on the ground last week and, on average, they've gained 129.4 yards per contest.
4) Pester Patrick – Patrick Mahomes is the reigning NFL MVP. He's tossed 11 touchdowns this season and hasn't been picked off. The Colts defense limited him and Kansas City to just 13 points in last Sunday's loss. In 21 career regular season games before that, the lowest point total for the Chiefs had been 26, and they averaged 34.6 points per game in that span.
Defensive end J.J. Watt, who has a combined four sacks and 12 quarterback hits in the last three games, said the Texans need to put pressure on Mahomes. But that's not an easy task.
"He obviously does a great job handling that, moving around, throwing on the run," Watt said. "I don't have to worry about where the ball is going once it's thrown. It's just trying to get to the quarterback. I mean, at the end of the day that's our job and we're going to have to do a good job of that."
Mahomes was sacked four times by Indianapolis. In the four games prior this season, he was dropped a combined three times. Whether the front seven can get to him or not, veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph explained what he and the rest of the secondary have to do in coverage.
"Just stay with your man, stay the course," Joseph said. "You don't know if the play's going to be three or four seconds, or eight or nine seconds, because he has the capability to run back there and extend plays. He can make any throw on the field at any given time, no matter where he is."
5) Safety first – When the Texans signed safety Tashaun Gipson this offseason, many pointed to his successes in defending against tight ends. Gipson will get a mighty test this Sunday in Travis Kelce. Twice an All-Pro, Kelce's finished with over 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons, and he's caught a combined 22 touchdowns in that span.
"Best tight end in the National Football League, in my opinion," Gipson said of Kelce. He also lumped Philadelphia's Zac Ertz in there as well.
"Played him last year. Those two are my tougher challenges. Always look forward to these types of matchups. He's a familiar foe, obviously. We'll see how Sunday turns out."
In three regular season contests and one playoff game against Houston, Kelce's averaged about seven catches for 92 yards.
"Kelce is a tremendous athlete," defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said. "He's got length, he's got size, he's got toughness, he can run. He poses matchup problems, and if you've got a guy that you can put on him that can slow him down a little bit, that helps the defensive scheme. Gipson having played him before, I think that will benefit us a little bit when he's on him."
Gipson will likely be helped by his fellow safeties, the corners, and linebacker Zach Cunningham.
Houston Texans Fans come out to NRG Stadium for the fifth game of the 2019 NFL season against the Falcons.