For a list of pregame activities on Salute to the Military Day, click here.
1. Old team, new foe:Bernard Pollard was adamant all week that this game is not about him against his former team, but it will be an emotional game for the hard-hitting Texans safety.
Pollard was drafted by the Chiefs in the second round in 2006. He became a starter in 2007 and was the Chiefs' leading tackler in 2008. In 2009, with a new head coach and general manager in place, the Chiefs cut Pollard right before the start of the season. He cleared waivers and was without a team until the Texans signed him three weeks later.
"It was a reality check when I was cut, and I grew as a man, as a player, as a father, as a husband, and I'm going to continue to grow," Pollard said. "I'm here and I love it, so I have nothing to prove to (the Chiefs), I have nothing to say to them. Whatever they have to say, I'm not going to disrespect anybody, I will respect you as a man, but I know what was done. I know what was said."
Chiefs coach Todd Haley said this week that cutting Pollard was a tough decision and that he's glad to see Pollard doing well. Pollard declined to respond to Haley's comments.
"My old teammates, I love every one of them, and they know and understand what type of teammate I was," he said. "They know the type of man I was. They know the things that I would do and the things I wouldn't do. I thank Herm Edwards for drafting me. (Former Chiefs owner) Lamar Hunt, he was a great guy and I thank God for him, but at the end of the day, Mr. (Bob) McNair is our owner and (Gary) Kubiak is our head coach and the Texans are my team."
2. Daniels improving:Slowly but surely, tight end Owen Daniels is getting back to being his old self. The 2008 Pro Bowler had three catches for 45 yards last week, including a 19-yard gain on the Texans' first play. It was his best game since returning from a 2009 season-ending knee injury, and he said this week that he feels as good as ever.
Daniels was on pace for 89 catches, 1,136 yards and 11 touchdowns before his injury last season. He had 70 catches for 862 yards in 2008. After being slowed by a hamstring issue during his comeback campaign, he's primed to once again become an integral part of the Texans' passing attack.
"You could kind of tell when he first came back he was kind of trying to feel his way through, especially coming off the knee injury he had," Texans receiver Andre Johnson said. "Normally it takes guys a little while to get themselves back to normal. He's been out there doing well in practice, and he seems to be feeling good. Hopefully we can get him going like he was before he got injured. He plays a big part in our offense."
3. Strength vs. strength:Both teams excel at running the ball and stopping the run. The Texans are fifth in rushing offense (142.4 yards/game) while the Chiefs are sixth in rushing defense (80.5 yards allowed/game). The Chiefs are third in rushing offense (148.8 yards/game) while the Texans are fifth in rushing defense (79.6 yards allowed/game).
Texans running back Arian Foster leads the league in rushing, but he was limited to 25 yards on 11 carries last week. He'll face a stiff test in a Chiefs 3-4 defense that features defensive end Glenn Dorsey and linebackers Derrick Johnson and Mike Vrabel in its front seven.
For the Chiefs, running back Jamaal Charles is the lightning to Thomas Jones' thunder. Charles has 50 carries for 325 yards (6.5 per carry) and a touchdown and is a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. The veteran Jones has 60 carries for 236 yards (3.9 per carry) and a touchdown.
4. Weakness vs. weakness:The Texans' Achilles heel this season has been their passing defense, which ranks last in the league (329.6 yards allowed/game). The Chiefs' passing offense hasn't been much better, ranking 27th (158 yards/game).
Perhaps this is the week that Kareem Jackson and the rest of the Texans' young secondary find their footing. Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel hasn't made many mistakes, but he also hasn't made many big plays. He's averaging 6.1 yards per attempt and has completed only four passes of 25 yards this season. His 54.7 completion percentage ranks 30th in the league.
Cassel's top wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe, has made some untimely drops, including one in the end zone last week against the Colts. Rookie tight end Tony Moeaki leads the Chiefs with 16 catches for 173 yards. Texans receivers Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter both came close to matching those numbers in one game (Week 2 at Washington).
5. Return game:With the teams evenly matched on paper in so many areas, the 'X' factor in this game could be special teams.
The Chiefs have a couple of game-breaking returners in rookies Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas. Both are a threat to score every time they touch the ball, as evidenced by McCluster's 94-yard punt return touchdown in Week 1 against San Diego. McCluster and Arenas have combined to average 15.4 yards per punt return, which is tied for the highest team average in the league.
Getting Jacoby Jones back to return punts this week should be a big boost for the Texans. David Anderson did a capable job filling in for Jones against the Giants, but Jones is averaging 10.8 yards per punt return this season. That doesn't include several long returns negated by penalties.
Kubiak said that he doesn't plan to remove Steve Slaton from kickoff return duty, but the Chiefs and Texans are both struggling in that department. Kansas City averages 21.0 yards per kick return compared to the Texans' 19.0. Of course, that can all change with one big play.