We've seen the Chiefs many times before. We've seen the Chiefs to open the season. This time, though, it's going to be wildly different. This is the first NFL game played in the middle of a world-wide pandemic. Eyeballs will be on this one all over the world. It's a road game that'll have only 25% capacity. It's a night the Chiefs will lower the Super Bowl championship banner. Trying to encapsulate all that's going on Thursday night is nearly impossible. The only thing that I know for certain about this Texans-Chiefs matchup is it's a night that no one is soon to forget.
Both teams signed their young, wunderkind quarterbacks from the 2017 NFL Draft to massive contracts in the offseason, and for good reason. We all know what Deshaun Watson has meant, and will continue to mean, to the Texans, while in Kansas City, the man taken two spots ahead of Watson in the aforementioned 2017 NFL Draft has also become the King of Kansas City - Patrick Mahomes. These two face-of-the-franchise gunslingers will face off many times in this league but this season opener will be the rubber match, if you will, thus far. Watson and the Texans won in Kansas City in week six last year the first time these two stepped on the field together, while Mahomes and company returned the favor in the playoff game at Arrowhead that ended the Texans 2019 season.
There's no bad blood between the two teams; seemingly nothing but unending respect. That said, familiarity often breeds contempt. As such, the intensity should be through the roof in this matchup with the Chiefs to start the season. The storylines are plentiful. The talent is outstanding. The opponents are familiar. This should be a great way to kick off the 2020 season.
With no further ado, let's get to know the defending World Champs - the Kansas City Chiefs.
2019 Schedule - Record 15-4, Super Bowl Champions
W, @ Jacksonville Jaguars 40-26
W, @ Oakland Raiders 28-10
W, Baltimore Ravens 33-28
W, @ Detroit Lions 34-30
L, Indianapolis Colts 19-13
L, Houston Texans 31-24
W, @ Denver Broncos 30-6
L, Green Bay Packers 31-24
W, Minnesota Vikings 26-23
L, @ Tennessee Titans 35-32
W, @ Los Angeles Chargers 24-17 (Mexico City)
W, Oakland Raiders 40-9
W, @ New England Patriots 23-16
W, Denver Broncos 23-3
W, @ Chicago Bears 26-3
W, Los Angeles Chargers 31-21
AFC Divisional Round - W, Houston Texans 51-31
AFC Championship - W, Tennessee Titans 35-24
Super Bowl LIV - W, San Francisco 49ers 31-20
Chiefs OFFENSE (in 2019 regular season)
Rushing Yards Per game - 98.1 ypg (23rd in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 281.1 ypg (5th)
Total offense per game - 379.2 ypg (6th)
Turnovers lost - 15 (5 INT, 10 Fumbles lost)
Projected Chiefs starting offense for 2020QB - Patrick Mahomes
RB - CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIREWR - Tyreek Hill
WR - Sammy Watkins
WR - Demarcus Robinson/Mecole Hardman
TE - Travis Kelce
LT - Eric Fisher
LG - Andrew Wylie
C - Austin Reiter
RG - Kelechi Osemele
RT - Mitchell Schwartz
Other Key Offensive pieces
RB - Darrel Williams
RB - Darwin Thompson
FB - Anthony Sherman
OT - YASIR DURANT
OG - Nick Allegretti
ALL CAPS - Rookie
Bold - New starter in 2020
Keys to stopping the Chiefs Offense
- Eliminate easy throws to Clyde Edwards-Helaire out of the backfield - In his most recent media session, Texans defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver compared the former LSU product to Darren Sproles. There could truly be no more apt comparison and Sproles has dominated the Texans in the past, including the last time the Texans faced him in Philly in 2018. One aspect that could help is to force Edwards-Helaire into pass protection situations to help keep him from getting out on routes. That said, because the Chiefs may not want a rookie running back protecting their $500M man at quarterback, CEH's presence in the backfield may give some clues as to how they plan to use him on particular plays.
- Spin the dial on tight end Travis Kelce - who can cover him one-on-one? Not many people, but I've studied a ton of Chiefs games and teams have tried a number of different approaches to limit his touches. Single him. Double him. Jam him. Bracket him. Keep spinning the dial all game long. Even as important is for cover guys to latch on when quarterback Patrick Mahomes starts to improvise because that's where Kelce did most of his damage against the Texans last January. Speaking of Mahomes...
- MAKE HIM THROW FROM THE POCKET! - I can't say it with more emphasis, but a major killer in the Texans playoff loss to the Chiefs was Mahomes ability to get out of the pocket and create for others or scramble for yards. It was a KILLER.
- Create 1-on-1 opportunities for key rushers - I don't anticipate the Chiefs are going to allow J.J. Watt to go 1-on-1 with anyone but right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. As such, when the Chiefs are forced to adjust to help on Watt, the other pass rushers must go to work and win 1-on-1 matchups
- Leave this Chiefs offense on the sideline - one of the best aspects to the week six win at Arrowhead last year was the nearly 40 minutes of time of possession. So, this is a true team effort to keep the Chiefs offense from exploding in the season opener.
Chiefs DEFENSE (in 2019 regular season)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 128.2 ypg (26th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 221.4 ypg (8th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 349.6 ypg (17th)
Turnovers generated - 23 (16 INT, 7 Fumble recoveries - Chiefs were +8 in TO margin in 2019)
Projected Chiefs starting defense for 2020DE - Alex Okafor (returning from injury)
DT - Chris Jones
DT - Derrick Nnadi
DE - Frank Clark
LB - Anthony Hitchens
LB - Damien Wilson
CB - L'JARIUS SNEED/Antonio HamiltonCB - Rashad Fenton
S - Tyrann Mathieu
S - Juan Thornhill (tore ACL late in the 2019 season)
CB - Charvarius Ward
Other Key Defensive pieces
DE - Tanoh Kpassagnon
DE - Taco Charlton
DT - Khalen Saunders
DE - MIKE DANNA
LB - WILLIE GAY JR.
LB - Dorian O'Daniel
DT - Khalen Saunders
S - Daniel Sorensen
CB - THAKARIUS 'BOPETE' KEYES
ALL CAPS - Rookie* Bold*- New starter in 2020
Keys to winning v. the Chiefs Defense
- Attack the newbie...or newbies - Chiefs starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland will miss this game due to a league suspension, so there will be a new cornerback, perhaps even a rookie at cornerback. Furthermore, there will be at least one rookie on the field in nickel and/or dime when the Texans are in 10 or 11 personnel. It's time to see if he, or they, can handle what the Texans have in their receiver arsenal.
- Create mismatches in the passing game - given the Texans offensive personnel, offensive coordinator Tim Kelly has ways to find a matchup to his liking, no matter what personnel grouping he has on the field.
- Control Chris Jones - pound him in the run game - the Texans were lucky in the two matchups last year to not have to face one of the best interior linemen in the league. He loves to rush the quarterback and disrupt the pocket, but constant double teams and a physical presence pounding on him will take a toll as the game wears on.
- Tytus v. Frank - this matchup I'll probably watch more than any other - Texans right tackle Tytus Howard v. Chiefs Frank Clark. Without Howard in the playoff game, the Texans struggled against Clark on that side. Howard had success in the week six matchup until he left the game with an injury in the third quarter. Clark can wreck the game from the edge and he feels like he learned something in the playoff game that he can use going forward. Against Tytus, though, he'll meet his physical match
- It's not a boatrace, it's Houston traffic - Here's what I mean as it pertains to tempo. It's nearly impossible to go NASCAR fast on offense in the NFL, but the Texans can speed up, slow down, slide in and out with their tempo like driving in Houston traffic. Treat the tempo kind of like Deshaun Watson's buddy Justin Verlander does with his pitches/pitch approach - change speeds, keep them off balance and strike when they're not expecting. There are going to be opportune times for the Texans to ramp up the tempo for an advantage and others when they can work the personnel groupings through a more traditional huddle approach for an edge.