Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs Player Spotlight: Justin Houston

 

 

The Kansas City Chiefs still have a chance to win the AFC West, however unlikely it is that Denver will lose in Houston or Oakland. For better or for worse, Kansas City has to play their top players in case the Broncos stumble unexpectedly. That means a return of Justin Houston this week against the Indianapolis Colts. When Houston takes the field Sunday, he will be under the spotlight.

Houston has practiced this week, albeit on a very limited basis. Adam Teicher of ESPN thinks Houston will play if heathly.

 

 

 

 

Houston hurt his elbow 4 games ago against San Diego. The Chiefs defense has struggled since right before the bye week, even with Houston, but Kansas City needs all hands on deck for these last two games, and into the playoffs.

Despite missing three games and more than half of another, Houston has recorded 11 sacks and 44 tackles. Early in the season, Houston and Tamba Hali established themselves as incredible bookend pass rushing outside linebackers. The league adjusted to a short drop, quick release passing offense against the dual sack threat, and the Chiefs were slow to adjust on the defensive side of the ball.

Subsequent teams haven’t been as quite as effective with that style of offense as Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, mainly because they just aren’t as good. Still, without Houston, the Chiefs defense has been giving massive amounts of yards, 417 a game in the last three outings, including just 257 against Washington in snowy, wet conditions.

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

There is little doubt the Chiefs are much better with Houston than without him in the line up. While the Chiefs come after the quarterback relentlessly, having Houston in the game will give Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton more options.

Over the past few games, Sutton has brought Eric Berry on safety blitzes more often. With Houston in there, Sutton can do a few more things, like bring Hali and Houston in hard, or drop one or the other in coverage and blitz with Berry. He can bring more corner blitzes with the talented Houston on the field.

More Houston means more options for the Chiefs on defense. Replacement Frank Zombo has played hard, and has performed well most of the time but he just isn’t Houston, and the pressure on the quarterbacks has slipped in Houston’s absence.

The Chiefs face the Indianapolis Colts this week, and while Andrew Luck is very talented, he is not on the level of Manning and Rivers quite yet. Still, he has the physical tools to make whatever pass plays are required. He doesn’t have the receivers Manning does (nobody does), or the sheer gumption and force of will that Rivers displays (again – who does), but he is very good quarterback.

The Chiefs won’t be able to just pin their ears back and go after Luck, with or without Houston. They must mix things up, and keep the less experience quarterback off balance. It will be easier to do this with Justin Houston than without him.

The spotlight will be shining brightly on number 50 on Sunday at Arrowhead. If the Chiefs deem he isn’t 100%, and they decide to hold him out, Houston will be spotlighted for a totally different reason.

Every game from here on is a must win for the Kansas City Chiefs. They need Houston and a bolstered defense if they want to win their division and their first playoff game in 20 years.

UPDATE NOTE: Despite practicing this week, the Chiefs decided to keep Houston out of this game.

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