Similar to the Patriots throughout the 2010s, it's felt like an annual ritual seeing the Chiefs on the Texans schedule. Starting in 2015, the Texans faced Kansas City every single year (minus 2018 and 2021), including twice in the playoffs in 2015 and 2019. As such, the helmet is quite familiar, even if both teams have shed their skin, to some degree, since the last meeting.
Suffice to say, both teams have changed plenty from the last matchup in early September 2020 as the Chiefs have just eight starters remaining from that regular season opener and the Texans have even fewer. Try two…and none on defense. Either way, the Chiefs still have two of the best players in the league at their respective positions. QB Patrick Mahomes is smack dab in the middle of another MVP campaign, while TE Travis Kelce continues to age like a fine wine, having one of his finest seasons with 81 receptions for 1,039 yards and a career high 12 TD. With four games left, Kelce could set career marks in every category in his tenth year in the league. My goodness.
The Chiefs defensive mainstay is, arguably, the most disruptive interior player in the league - Chris Jones. The Texans were fortunate in 2019 to not face Jones in either game, but in 2020, he showed how dominant he could be with 1.5 sacks and two QB hits. Not much has changed with Jones as he continues to put OL on skates and tackle ball carriers for losses, be it sacks or TFL. Those star players are surrounded by a young, emerging supporting cast that has not only stepped into the void left by the departures of Tyrann Mathieu, Charvarius Ward, Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, amongst others, but excelled at an even higher level at younger ages. It's a tremendous combination for the Chiefs and it's worked, to say the least.
The NFL challenge grows exponentially every week and even higher with this squad coming to Houston. So, let's get to Know the Texans' Week 15 Foe - the Kansas City Chiefs.
2022 Schedule (10-3)
Week 1 - W @ Arizona Cardinals 44-21
Week 2 - W Los Angeles Chargers 27-24
Week 3 - L @ Indianapolis Colts 20-17
Week 4 - W @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41-31
Week 5 - W Las Vegas Raiders 30-29
Week 6 - L Buffalo Bills 24-20
Week 7 - W @ San Francisco 49ers 44-23
Week 8 - BYE
Week 9 - W Tennessee Titans 20-17
Week 10 - W Jacksonville Jaguars 27-17
Week 11 - W @ Los Angeles Chargers 30-27
Week 12 - W Los Angeles Rams 26-10
Week 13 - L @ Cincinnati Bengals 27-24
Week 14 - W @ Denver Broncos 34-28
Week 15 - @ Houston Texans
Week 16 - Seattle Seahawks
Week 17 - Denver Broncos
Week 18 - @ Las Vegas Raiders
Chiefs OFFENSE (in 2022 regular season)
Rushing Yards Per game - 114.6 ypg (18th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 309.2 ypg (1st)
Total offense per game - 423.8 ypg (1st)
Turnovers lost - 19 (8 Fumble lost, 11 INT)
Expected Chiefs starting offense for Week 15
QB - Patrick Mahomes
RB - ISAIH PACHECO
WR - JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER
WR - MARQUES VALDES-SCANTLING
WR - JUSTIN WATSON/Mecole Hardman (if healthy)
TE - Travis Keice
LT - Orlando Brown
LG - Joe Thuney
C - Creed Humphrey
RG - Trey Smith
RT - Andrew Wylie
Key Offensive Non-Starters
RB - Jerick McKinnon
WR - KADARIUS TONEY (if healthy)
WR - SKYY MOORE
FB - Michael Burton
TE - Noah Gray
Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2022
Keys to winning v. the Chiefs Offense
1. Chinese Finger Lock - Say WHAT?!? Okay, let me explain. If you know what a Chinese finger lock is, you'll possibly understand my analogy but go with me on this for a bit. A Chinese finger lock or trap is a device that looks a little like a bamboo pixie stick container. One finger goes in one end and one digit goes in the other. When you PULL them apart, as you'd expect to do with a device like this, the lock sets in and it's a vice grip in which you can't free your digits. To get them free, you have to think opposite and PUSH together to free both fingers. Now, why in the heck did I mention that? Well, that's sort of the way I think a defense has to attack Patrick Mahomes. One of the best things that Mahomes does is slide underneath a fast rushing edge rusher, then duck out to the right side, trying to throw on the run to an open receiver. In pure Chinese Finger Lock fashion, the Texans should invite him to do what he does well. WAIT, WHAT?!? Yes, force that in/then out type scramble then stunt/loop/adjust coverage right into that side of the field. The Chiefs want Mahomes in the pocket throwing cleanly, but they also love the creativity when Mahomes escapes. So, let him escape, then trap him into that decision with a well placed secondary pass rush and linebacker/secondary adjustments. Like a finger trap, it's the opposite of what you'd expect to do, but when used effectively, it could really cut off half the field against Mahomes, if planned right and executed properly. Mahomes will beat ANY coverage and scheme the Texans defense throws at him because he's that good. However, if the Texans defense can bait him into doing what he does well and then put a Chinese finger lock trap on him, who knows what could happen? He did throw three interceptions last week at Denver. I'll take even one or two and it could happen in instances like this.
2. Now THIS is a TE - Last week against the Dallas Cowboys in the most important part of the game, Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz had a field day against the Texans coverage unit. He finished with six catches for 87 yards on ten targets. He's grown into a tremendous pass catcher in this league, but he's not in the stratosphere compared to the Texans next opposing TE - Travis Kelce. The ten year soon-to-be Hall of Fame TE is having another career season, but he hasn't had THAT type of game since scoring three TD in a come-from-behind win over the Chargers a few weeks ago. But, the possibility of him having THAT game is quite high because he's feasted on the Texans in his glorious career.
2015 opener - six for 106 yards and two TD (Chiefs W)
2015 playoff - eight for 128 yards (Chiefs W)
2016 - five for 34 yards (Chiefs L)
2017 - eight for 98 (Chiefs W)
2019 regular season - four for 58 (Chiefs L)
2019 playoff - ten for 134 and three TD (Chiefs W)
2020 opener - six for 50 and a TD (Chiefs W)
The only games in which the Texans held him under six catches, the Texans won. In five Chiefs wins, Kelce averaged 7.6 receptions for 103.2 yards and one TD per Chiefs win. In two Chiefs losses, Kelce averaged 4.5 receptions, 46 yards and no TD per Chiefs loss. Kelce is the TE version of T.Y. Hilton against the Texans. And, after Schultz had the game that he did, I worry immensely that Kelce could have THAT type of game against the Texans…again. Whatever the Texans have in the coverage chamber, if you will, to throw at Kelce, it's time to bring it ALL out on Sunday.
3. Where can they win? - The Texans have proven, as we've seen all year, that in pass-rush situations, there's a better than average chance that, at least, one Texan DL can win one-on-one and get into the backfield to impact the pass. Last week, that group didn't rack up a ton of hits, pressures and sacks, but they didn't make life fun for Cowboys QB Dak Prescott. Mahomes is quicker to flee the pocket and will do so WAY more than Prescott did. But, it's still imperative that the Texans DL rotation win those one-on-one battles, especially on the perimeter of the formation against the Chiefs offensive tackles.
Chiefs DEFENSE (in 2022 regular season)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 106.2 ypg (6th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 235.5 ypg (22nd)
Total offense Allowed per game - 341.6 ypg (18th)
Turnovers generated - 14 (8 INT, 6 Fumble recoveries - Chiefs are -5 in TO margin)
Expected Chiefs starting defense for Week 15
DE - GEORGE KARLAFTIS
DT - Derrick Nnadi
DT - Chris Jones
DE - Frank Clark
LB - Nick Bolton
LB - Wille Gay
LB - LEO CHENAL
CB - L'Jarius Sneed/JOSHUA WILLIAMS
S - Juan Thornhill
S - JUSTIN REID
CB - TRENT McDUFFIE
Key Defensive Non-Starters
DE - Carlos Dunlap
DT - Khalen Saunders
CB - JAYLEN WATSON
DE - Mike Danna
S - DEON BUSH
S - BRYAN COOK
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2022_ Italics_ - Rookie
Keys to winning v. the Chiefs Defense
1. I'd rather he NOT play - When I first saw Chiefs DL Chris Jones at Mississippi State as a true freshman, I thought he was going to be one of the best DL in the NFL in due time. He didn't flourish a ton over his final two seasons at MSU, but once he got into the league, he found that inner DAWG and now brings it out of him each and every week. This is no longer Jones choosing when he WANTS to dominate; he's that guy who takes over week in and week out. His presence on the Chiefs defensive line scares me because of how the Texans may have to adjust with some injuries to key interior players. Thing is, Jones will exploit tackles as well in his pass rush game, but there's no reason for Jones to tangle with the Texans tackles Tytus Howard and Laremy Tunsil, when he can demand double teams and open things up for everyone on the Chiefs front when he's aligned inside. That's where I expect to see #95 100% of the time on pass rush downs in this matchup.
2. High Praise - Chatting this week with GM Nick Caserio about the Chiefs, he said one thing that really caught my attention. Having seen Chiefs LB Nick Bolton play plenty for the Chiefs the past two years, I wasn't totally surprised when Nick mentioned that Bolton is playing as well as ANY LB in the league. It really is true, even if you haven't even heard of Bolton. The 6-0, 237 lb. dynamo is twitchy and explosive to the football, packs a wallop when he gets there and doesn't come off the field, all the while creating impact plays against both the pass and the run. He already has two picks, two passes defensed, a fumble recovery, five QB hits, two sacks and nine TFL in just 13 games. He sets the tone with his instincts and ability to find the ball carrier through all the chaos. With no Dameon Pierce in this matchup to "block" Bolton with his tackle breaking ability, it's of the utmost importance that the Texans get a hat on #32 or it's going to be a long game…like it was last week against Leighton Vander Esch, who had 14 tackles against the Texans.
3. The Young Guns? - The Chiefs knew that they had a secondary issue coming out of the 2021 season. In fact, they knew they had issues well before that, but in 2022, GM Brett Veach made sure that they ADDRESSED said issue in the 2022 NFL Draft. With their first round pick, the Chiefs drafted CB Trent McDuffie from Washington and St. John Bosco HS. With their second round pick, they drafted Cincinnati S Bryan Cook. With their fourth round pick, they took uber-talented CB Joshua Williams from Fayetteville State. Finally, with their two seven round picks, they selected CB Jaylen Watson from Washington State and Marshall S Nazeeh Johnson. 40% of their 2022 draft picks were secondary players and three of them have played a significant role for the Chiefs this year. McDuffie was injured early in the season but he has proven to be a superstar at a perimeter cornerback position. Watson won the game against the Chargers in week two with a pick six in the fourth quarter. Cook has played in 12 games, with one start, racking up 25 tackles and a sack. That said, it's still a young unit in a long season, so the Texans QBs have to challenge those youngsters in the passing game in a variety of ways, as they did last week against Dallas.
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