Expert Pick: Houston Texans vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Houston Texans (11-6 SU, 8-8-1 ATS) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (12–4 SU, 10-5-1 ATS)
Date/Time: Sunday, January 12, 3:05 PM EST
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City
Point Spread: Hou +9.5/ KC -9.5 (WagerWeb)
Over/Under Total: 50.5
Andy Reid and his Chiefs welcome in Bill O’Brien and the Texans on Sunday with the winner earning a ticket to the AFC Championship Game. The Texans came back at home to win and cover against the Bills last week while the Chiefs enjoyed a week off. Sportsbooks have made the Chiefs 9½ point favorites and set the game total at 50½. Houston went into Arrowhead and beat KC in week 6, but the play this week is to lay the points with Reid and his Chiefs to win and cover the near double-digit spread. Here are three reasons.
Patrick Mahomes Will Carve Up the Texan Defense
Mahomes has been battling injuries all year, including the Week 6 game against Houston. He and his teammates have gotten healthier over the last month of the season and are playing their best ball of the year. KC has won four of their previous five games by double digits. Mahomes will have his full complement of receivers to work with this week. Tyreek Hill caught 20 balls for 240 yards over the last four weeks, even with defenses focusing on shutting him down. Travis Kelce is one of the few Chiefs that stayed healthy all year, accumulating 97 catches and five touchdowns while averaging 76 yards per game. The aspect of the Chief offense that will make things difficult for the Texans this week is their running game. KC ranked 23rd in rushing yards for the season, but Damien Williams finally was able to get back on the field in week 16, and ran for 189 yards in the final two contests, adding 57 more yards through the air and scored three times. If Houston chooses to sit back and defend the pass, Reid and Mahomes will be happy to let Williams pick up chunk plays and first downs on the ground. Over the past two games, KC converted on 62% of third downs to keep drives moving, and should have the same success this week.
Houston’s defense has struggled much of the year, finishing last in opponents yards per play, while only 19th in points allowed. Their secondary has been battling injuries with Jonathan Joseph sitting out last week and Bradley Roby playing after missing the previous five games of the year. They are not a particularly fast secondary, and this week will line up against the fastest wide receiver group in the league. Houston allowed the 4th most passing yards and 8th most rushing yards on the season. J.J. Watt did return last week after missing the second half of the season with a shoulder injury. He helped the Texans against the Bills, but he is basically playing with only one arm, so look for the Chief offensive line to be able to minimize his impact this week. KC has the advantage in both the running and passing games this week, so it’s hard to imagine how Houston will hold the Chiefs under 30 this week in Arrowhead.
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Houston’s Offense Can’t Keep Up
While the Chief offense is firing on all cylinders, Houston’s offense can’t get into high gear. In their last seven games - not including the Week 17 game that Deshaun Watson sat out, Houston has averaged only 21 points per game and turned the ball over 11 times. Watson has the always reliable DeAndre Hopkins to throw to, but speedster Will Fuller has missed multiple games down the stretch, and though there is talk of him playing this week, we shouldn’t expect him to be at 100% or make it through the entire game if he is on the active roster. Without Fuller, when teams double Hopkins, Watson is forced to look for tight end Darren Fells or Duke Johnson out of the backfield. Neither will instill fear in the Chief defense. Watson is also susceptible to taking sacks recently, including going down seven times last week against Buffalo. Watson has no confidence in any receiver other than Hopkins and is looking to get out of the pocket when Hopkins is not open. Carlos Hyde has been a pleasant surprise running the ball for Houston and could move the chains some this week, but he is not the type of back that can take over a game. Houston’s offense will have to play their best game in the last two months to keep up with Mahomes and KC’s offense, and it will have to come against a very stout KC defense.
It took KC 2 months at the start of the season to get their defense going, giving up 28 or more points in four of their first eight games. However, over the past five weeks, they are only allowing 10 points per game, taking the ball away seven times over that span. Chris Jones has returned to the lineup to record four sacks over those games and will collapse the pocket all day Sunday. Frank Clark and Terrell Suggs will join Jones on the pass rush this week and should have success against one of the worst offensive lines in the league. The Chiefs finished the year 28th against the run, so Houston may try to run the ball more, but since the defensive line has become healthy, the run defense has also improved. Houston’s only hope on offense is Watson – and he won’t be able to win the game by himself.
KC Has the Better Coach and All the Intangibles
Andy Reid is a remarkable 18-3 straight up and 14-7 ATS after a bye. KC has a huge advantage this week with Reid going up against Bill O’Brien, whose team was totally outplayed in the first half last week against the Bills. KC was able to rest last week while Houston had to play 71 minutes to get a win against the Bills. Buffalo is a very physical team that played a very physical game in Houston, which will leave its mark on the Texans. Buffalo led 13-0 at halftime, and Houston was only able to win because Josh Allen and the Bills couldn’t put points on the board in the second half and put Houston away. Reid will not take his foot off the gas, and Mahomes will not have trouble under the second half spotlight that Josh Allen couldn’t handle. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the strongest home-field advantages in the NFL, especially in January against a dome team. Houston got a big emotional win last week after appearing dead at halftime, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if O’Brien’s team comes out flat again, and is buried this week at Arrowhead.
Lay the Points with the Chiefs
The play this week is to lay the points and ride with the Chiefs. 9.5 points is a lot in an NFL game, and Kansas City is the much better team in a great spot this week. As long as they keep the back door closed, they should easily win and cover the big spread.
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