Kansas City Chiefs should dominate Houston Texans on both sides
Deshaun Watson has been a punching bag
A lot has been made of Deshaun Watson’s individual heroics this season. Time and again, Watson has taken bone-shattering hits and somehow managed to stay on his feet and make a spectacular play to seal a win for his team. This talk has been deserved; he’s had a great season. His play against the Buffalo Bills in overtime is essentially a symbol of all that. Without Watson, this team doesn’t make the playoffs.
The truth of the matter is, Watson has had to be heroic because he has been a punching bag this season. He’s been hit 93 times in the regular season, being sacked on 44 of those. Ironically, that’s not that poor of a rate when you consider his game against the Bills. After being hit nearly six times and sacked nearly three times a game during the regular season, Watson was hit a whopping 12 times and sacked seven times in the Texans first postseason game. What this signals to me is that the offensive line, and likely Watson himself could be starting to wear down.
This is understandable since the NFL season is an absolute grind. Issues that teams start the season with can often become their downfall once they hit the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Texans, the first time they played at Arrowhead, the Chiefs were nowhere near the pass rushing team they have become. They got off to an incredibly slow start, with only 11 sacks in their first 6 games. With 34 sacks in the final 10, and the Texans continued struggles to protect Watson, there’s a good chance the Chiefs are able to deliver some big shots.
Will Fuller makes the Houston offense much more dangerous
I’m fairly confident about this game. The Chiefs offense has been steady, albeit not insanely prolific, and is bound to break out sooner or later. The Chiefs defense has been on an absolute tear the last several weeks, as I’ve written about previously. The Chiefs are hot, and in the playoffs that can be a big factor. The main concern I have is the return of Will Fuller.
Fuller missed five games in the regular season, due to various injuries, and missed the last game against the Buffalo Bills. To be truthful, his impact in most of the games in which he played was hit or miss. He had two games with 140 yards receiving or more, absolutely shredding the opposing defense, yet he also had three games with 11 yards receiving or less, barely factoring into the equation.
Regardless of his statistical impact, his presence requires a completely different defensive approach. Especially with the loss of Thornhill, it’s likely the Chiefs will opt for extra players in deep coverage which will open up the middle of the field for players like DeAndre Hopkins. This seemed to be a primary issue for the Chiefs in the first contest, with Thornhill still developing.
Their struggles to contain receivers five to 10 yards past the line of scrimmage was obvious, and it arguably cost them the game. To avoid this same result on Saturday, Spagnuolo will have to be creative in the way he deploys the safeties with one less great athlete at his disposal.