The Texans hit the road for a Divisional Round playoff game against the Chiefs. Houston won the AFC South and defeated Buffalo last Saturday in a Wild Card playoff contest at NRG Stadium. Kansas City won the AFC West with a 12-4 record and had a first round bye. Here are five things to watch when the two squads square off Sunday inside Arrowhead Stadium at 2:05 p.m. First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.
1) Continued greatness – Deshaun Watson is coming off a comeback masterpiece. He guided the Texans back from a 16-point third quarter deficit, running for a score and tossing another en route to the overtime victory over Buffalo. When the proverbial dust settled, he completed 20-of-25 passes for 247 yards, wasn't picked off, and had a passer rating of 121.2.
In the Week 6 win against the Chiefs this season, Watson was picked off twice. But he also ran for two touchdowns, threw another, and completed 30-of-42 pass attempts in the Texans victory.
It was his heroics on the game's final drive that were perhaps most impressive. With Houston on top 31-24, Watson and the Texans got the ball on their own 37-yard line with 5:03 remaining in regulation. Watson then completed passes for 18 and nine yards, mixed in a 10-yard run, and then facing a 4th-and-3 with 2:00 left, hit DeAndre Hopkins for eight yards. The Chiefs were out of timeouts, and Watson kneeled twice to seal the win.
In all, it was a nine-play drive that killed the clock for the Texans.
"He's someone that can make big plays happen no matter what the scenario is," Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "He's going to fight until the end. You know that going into the game and you know that coming in as an offense and as a defense and as a team that you have to make sure you're on top of it all game long. It's going to be a 60-minute fight or even longer, whatever it takes."
Watson, though, isn't concerned with what he did in October or last week, or what a win would mean for the franchise.
"We can't worry about what happened in the past, we can't worry about what's going to happen in the future," Watson said. "We've got to worry about the moment now and take care of the moment now, and then we'll see what happens whenever that time comes."
2) Hopkins & his fellow WR – Hopkins is coming off a 90-yard performance in the Wild Card win over the Bills. He did much of that against All-Pro cornerback Tre'Davious White. He'll be joined by Kenny Stills, who didn't play in the first matchup with the Chiefs. Stills caught four touchdowns this season, and averaged 14 yards per reception.
A big question mark has been Will Fuller V's status. He left the Week 16 win at Tampa Bay with a groin injury. He didn't play in Week 17, and after working out in pregame, was inactive last week against Buffalo. Head coach Bill O'Brien said Friday that Fuller's progress was "so far, so good," but that the speedy pass-catcher would again be a gametime decision.
Fuller spoke Friday as well and said he's "feeling great" and "locked in, ready to go." He also made it clear he and O'Brien will talk before the game for a final check to make sure he can go.
If he's able, Fuller's an important weapon for the Texans offense. The Texans won eight of the 11 games Fuller started, and he's caught nine passes this year for 30 or more yards. That's the 7th-best mark in the NFL.
"He stretches the field," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. "He's a gifted kid. We know that. We know that he can scoot, so you've got to respect that."
3) Pound the rock – The Texans rumbled for 192 yards on 41 carries in Week 6 at Kansas City, and Carlos Hyde ran 26 times for 116 yards and a score. Duke Johnson chipped in with five carries for 34 yards, and he also caught a pair of passes for 20 yards. One of those receptions was an 11-yard touchdown.
Hyde is "looking forward" to playing the Chiefs, but stressed that the success he and the Texans had in October won't matter too much after kickoff this Sunday.
"It's different now," Hyde said. "That was early in the year. Things are different now."
In the 10 games since the Texans ground game went off, the Chiefs defense has allowed just two players to rush for over 100 yards in a game. All told, Kansas City's gone 8-2 since that loss to the Texans. In those eight victories, the rush defense allowed teams to average 92.1 yards per game.
4) New Faces – In addition to Stills, there will also be a few other key faces that weren't on the field for the first Texans-Chiefs matchup. Cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Vernon Hargreaves, III were on the Raiders and Buccaneers, respectively. In the Week 6 game, Phillip Gaines and Lonnie Johnson, Junior started and played 100 percent of the snaps at the cornerback spot. Bradley Roby left in the third quarter of that contest with a hamstring injury. Roby, Conley and Hargreaves are good to go for Sunday, and there's a good chance Johnathan Joseph will join them. He was inactive last week, as well as the first time the Texans faced KC.
Roby faced the Chiefs twice per year playing with the Broncos from 2014 through 2018. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said that familiarity with Kansas City could be helpful in limiting the ever-dangerous Tyreek Hill.
"Any time you play against a guy more, you kind of know him more, you kind of get a great feel for him and what he's going to do, how he runs his routes," Crennel said. "So, I think that that's helpful."
5) Watt and the pass rush – J.J. Watt returned from injury last week and was impactful in a variety of ways. His third quarter sack helped ignite the Texans rally. His presence altered the way the Bills protected. He drew blockers away from some teammates, which allowed players like Jacob Martin and Whitney Mercilus to make plays of their own.
"This is a very experienced group," Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. "It all starts up front. It starts with Watt and it starts with Mercilus. I'm not trying to disrespect anyone else on that team. But they have a great unit."
Generating a pass rush against Mahomes is important, because the Chiefs scored 28.2 points per game this season, and were fifth in the NFL with 281.1 passing yards per game.
"Whether it's a short pass or it's long pass all the way down the field, he can do everything," Watt said. "It's a great challenge."
Texans fans, TORO and Houston Texans Cheerleaders came out to NRG Stadium for Texans Radio with Marc Vandermeer, Drew Dougherty, John Harris and Kevin Walter!