WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
There's no question the Chiefs struggled in preseason with their pass protection. The good news is, with the return of left tackle Damion McIntosh, they may have a chance to give Damon Huard some time against the Texans, who didn't flash much of a pass rush this preseason.
Rookie Amobi Okoye is getting pushed around right now, and wherever he lines up (Houston's been playing him at right and left defensive tackle), the Chiefs should be able to handle him. Mario Williams, despite his draft status, doesn't look like that much of a threat off the weakside. He's far closer to being Eric Hicks than Julius Peppers at the moment.
Here's the bad news – the Texans have outstanding man coverage with Dunta Robinson (who did a great job against Terrell Owens in the third preseason game), who is showing all the signs of being a Pro Bowl cornerback, and DeMarcus Faggins on the other side isn't bad, either.
But really, they have no one who can match up with Tony Gonzalez (in fact, they have two extremely small safeties), and if Houston's pass rush doesn't improve, Huard will easily be able to find open receivers (the Texans appear to be much more prone to calling man coverages than zone). Robinson and Faggins are both 5-foot-10, also, so Dwayne Bowe and Jeff Webb might have some opportunities for jump balls in the red zone. Houston was 24th against the pass a year ago, and I don't see much reason to believe they'll make a huge jump in Week 1.
EDGE: Chiefs (shocking, I know)
WHEN THE TEXANS PASS
There's reason for optimism in Houston, because Matt Schaub looks like a much better quarterback than David Carr ever was. He's extremely accurate, and gets rid of the football consistently, even when there's immediate heavy pressure from a blitz or blown protection. He reminds me quite a bit of San Diego's Philip Rivers.
Here's the good news (for Chiefs fans, at least) – he doesn't have a great arm, and I don't think he's got quite the ideal mobility that Gary Kubiak would like when he calls bootlegs. Schaub had a great preseason, but he was fitting the ball into quite a few tight spots. Those could easily turn into interceptions with Ty Law and Patrick Surtain lurking.
Houston's receiving corps might not look like much on paper, but it's better than advertised. Andre Johnson is a known stud, and the Chiefs have no one who can handle him one-on-one. Rookie wide receiver Jacoby Jones led Houston in catches and yards this preseason, and reminds me of a bigger, slightly slower Ted Ginn, Jr – he's come out of nowhere (Lane College, a small school) to light up Houston's preseason.
Who really scares me, though, is tight end Owen Daniels. He's got the size and speed to get down the middle of the field against Kansas City's Cover 2 defense and exploit that hole. It'll be interesting to see if the Chiefs stick safety Jarrad Page on him (Page shut down San Diego tight end Antonio Gates last season). Houston's pass protection is better this year, but not anything to write home about. Without Jared Allen, it's anyone's guess how much heat Kansas City will put on Schaub, however.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
Houston's run defense was abysmal a year ago, as they ranked 20th overall and 22nd in yards per attempt. Larry Johnson ran through, over and around the Texans the last time he was in Reliant Stadium, but don't expect a repeat performance. The Chiefs are still piecing together their running game, and the Texans look to have a much improved run defense after they only gave up 3.6 yards per carry this preseason. I think they have an underrated group of linebackers (Danny Clark, DeMeco Ryans, Morlon Greenwood) and cornerback Dunta Robinson is as physical a cornerback as you'll find in this league.
Expect the Chiefs to run right at the rookie defensive tackle, Okoye, but don't expect a whole lot of success early. Houston did look extremely susceptible to the draw play in preseason, however, so I'd guess we'll see a few of those tomorrow from offensive coordinator Mike Solari.
WHEN THE TEXANS RUN
Houston ranked 21st against the run a year ago. If preseason was any indicator, they'll be ranked much higher in 2007. The Texans averaged 4.5 yards per carry through four exhibition games, and Ahman Green, Wali Lundy and even Ron Dayne looked good. Green in particular was impressive, as he displayed some real power and consistently broke tackles.
The good news is I don't think the Texans have the offensive tackles to get outside in the running game, and you know Gary Kubiak loves that stretch play. If KC's defensive line can plug the gaps and the linebackers and secondary wrap up on Green (I hope safety Jarrad Page is reading this), they'll be able to stop Houston's ground game.
The first thing that stood out to me about Houston's special teams was kicker Kris Brown. He drives the ball deep into the endzone on kickoffs. This may have an adverse effect on field position early in the game. The Chiefs have the edge in punters with future Pro-Bowler Dustin Colquitt, but Jacoby Jones (who I compared to Ted Ginn, Jr. earlier) has scary return skills. He ran back two punts for touchdowns this preseason. Jerome Mathis is one of the league's fastest kickoff return men, too, so KC's coverage units really have their hands full tomorrow.
The Texans have hope this year. They had an outstanding preseason. Don't discount the emotion of opening day carrying the home team to victory. Meanwhile, the Chiefs need to prove something. I think Kansas City has the edge in talent, but the Texans look like a team that's a little more prepared right now.
PREDICTION: Texans 17, Chiefs 13
Film Review: Chiefs vs Texans
WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories
Three Backfields With Question MarksEvery week, Fantasy Football Expert Mark Morales-Smith examines the most turbulent backfields in the NFL to help decipher whether or not there are any Fantasy stars in the making..…
Chiefs Put Justin Houston on PUP ListWith roster cuts looming, the Kansas City Chiefs have placed All Pro linebacker Justin Houston on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, meaning he won’t be able to return to…
Schwartz Brothers in Kansas City Makes SenseOn Tuesday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs will complete their first roster purge of the week. In order to get down to the league limit of 75 players, the Chiefs who cut eight…
Berry Signs as Chiefs Begin Roster CutsOn Sunday All Pro Safety Eric Berry, signed his one-year tender. That means today the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff will get their first on field glimpse of their starting…