The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans were on opposite ends of the spectrum last year. The Chiefs went 2-14 and picked first overall in April's NFL Draft, while the Texans won the AFC South and a playoff game. It seemed plausible that Kansas City would be able to turn it around, but it has been surprising to see Houston turn around the other way.
While the Chiefs have started 6-0 and sport the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL, the Texans only barely won their first two games of the year and have dropped four straight since. Three of those four losses have come by way of blowout, and the other was a fourth-quarter implosion against the Seahawks at home.
When the Texans travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs on Sunday, is there anything stopping KC from staying undefeated?
Meet the Chiefs
We already knew that Kansas City had talent on defense. The Chiefs sent four of their defensive players to the Pro Bowl last year despite winning only two games. They're just as talented on defense this year -- if not more so -- but now the offense is helping out, too.
Justin Houston has 9.5 sacks, Tamba Hali has 7.5 sacks and Dontari Poe has 4.5 sacks from an interior pass rush. The addition of quarterback Alex Smith on offense has helped them be more efficient, but they still don't have a great passing offense. The Chiefs are just 26th in passing yards, but have thrown only three interceptions and fumbled just once.
The Chiefs have been really, really good, but are they a great team one can expect to see in the Super Bowl?
Meet the Texans
Is there a chance left that a Super Bowl run in the AFC playoffs could still include the Texans? It doesn't seem like it right now.
Quarterback Matt Schaub has thrown nine interceptions in six games, including some costly ones at the ends of some big contests. He threw a game-tying pick-six to Seattle's Richard Sherman with only minutes remaining in that game. When Schaub went down with an injury last Sunday, some of the home fans even let out cheers of satisfaction to see backup T.J. Yates.
But Yates was worse, throwing an interception on each of his first two drives.
The Texans still have J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, and the league's No. 1 pass defense -- even if teams rarely pass on Houston, the Texans do hold opponents to short gains -- but is that going to be enough to challenge Kansas City and put their losing streak on hold?
Local Takes: Kansas City Chiefs
Wesley Roesch of Arrowhead Pride takes a look at the impressive season that cornerback Sean Smith is having:
In my opinion, Smith has been, hands down, our best CB this season. And he’s done his job quietly, it seems. If he keeps up this kind of play, he should surely get selected to the Pro Bowl this year. Let’s take a look at the numbers, because numbers are good. Our boys over at Pro Football Focus have Smith graded at a 7.7, which is good for the 5th best grade at the CB position. Through the first six games this year, QB’s have a 41.3 QB rating when throwing Smith’s way, which is also good for 5th best in the league (for guys that have played at least 112 snaps).
Local Takes: Houston Texans
Tim at Battle Red Blog takes a look at the QB controversy between Schaub, Yates and Case Keenum:
His performance thus far in 2013 has led to a lot of legitimate criticism of Matt Schaub's play, but you cannot question the guy's toughness. I fully believe he's going to do everything he possibly can to play. I also believe that, as Schaub implied but did not say, we are not talking about a minor injury. Factor in that the Texans get a bye after the game in Kansas City on Sunday, and it makes a whole lot of sense for Schaub to sit this one out. Yes, even with the team facing the very real possibility of falling to 2-5 with a fifth consecutive loss.
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The Texans might be a sneaky pick in any given week because, seemingly, the talent needed to win is there. We've seen these players all play well before, but Schaub's implosion and Week 6 ankle injury don't inspire much confidence in this team right now. Houston is 2-4, but could just as easily be 0-6 and staring at a possible top-three pick.
Winning in Kansas City against maybe the best defense in the league just seems a pipe dream right now . The Chiefs' offense isn't great, but against Houston, it's good enough.
Kansas City 20, Houston 10
The Chiefs are 7.5-point favorites, per Odds Shark. That might seem low, considering how these teams are going in different directions, but it will likely be a low-scoring game.
Chiefs vs. Browns, Sunday, Oct. 17, 1 p.m. ET
Texans have a bye week