The KC Chiefs know who they’ll be facing in the Divisional Round and it’ll be the Houston Texans coming to Arrowhead for a Sunday afternoon match-up to determine one half of the AFC Championship.
The first reaction when looking at this weekend’s match-up is “Well, the Texans came into Arrowhead once and knocked off the Chiefs, so they can obviously do it again!” Well, that thought process isn’t wrong per say, this Kansas City Chiefs team is a very different unit from that week six squad that fell to the Texans.
We’ve seen how much better of a team the Chiefs are down the stretch, as they won the final six games of the regular season and most of them were pretty convincing victories. A big reason as to why the Chiefs are so much better now is because they’re finally healthy (or as healthy as one can be at this point of the season).
When the Chiefs and Texans met up in week six of the regular season, Kansas City was without several key players.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Chiefs were missing Eric Fisher, Sammy Watkins, and Andrew Wylie, so they were without two offensive linemen and their second best wide receiver (yes, Watkins was considered the WR2 at that point of the season). On defense, they were without Chris Jones and Anthony Hitchens, two major contributors on that side of the ball.
All five of those guys are expected to be back on the gridiron this weekend when the Texans come to town and that should make a huge difference. In that week six game, Houston ran all over the Chiefs defense to the tune of 192 yards with Carlos Hyde gaining 116 of those yards and finding the end zone once. Deshaun Watson had two rushing touchdowns, giving Houston three on the afternoon.
Houston will probably rely on their run game again this weekend, but it won’t be as much of a cakewalk for the Texans this time around and having Hitchens and Jones active should make a world of difference. KC finished the regular season as the seventh worst team against the run, but that was a huge improvement from midway through the year.
The key to preventing Houston from running it throughout is to get a big lead and that’ll be much easier to do with Fisher at left tackle (Cameron Erving has no business being a starter) and Wylie at left guard.
Watkins hasn’t been all that effective this year, so him not suiting up in week six probably wasn’t that big of a deal in hindsight. Throughout the final six games of the season, it was Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce doing all of the damage and that’s exactly how it went against Houston earlier in the season too.
It’s easy to look back at this earlier match-up and point to how the Texans won in Arrowhead already this season. It’s a fair argument, but for the Texans fans and other NFL fans leading with that, they need to take into consideration all of the injuries KC had at that point in time. This is a much stronger team than the one we saw in week six and that very well could be the difference in the second go around.