We’ve been building to this for months now, and after several ebbs and flows, filled with anticipation and (at times) doubt, it is here. We are getting NFL football, with a bonus does of optimism that this thing could go the whole season through the Super Bowl. The NFL has done an incredible job of keeping COVID-19 out of its locker rooms, and the Texans are at the forefront of that, one of a small handful of teams with NO positive COVID tests in the building AT ALL.
Hopefully, the Texans can be as successful battling the Kansas City Chiefs as they’ve been batting like the coronavirus, That would make for a very happy and festive Friday morning around town. Easier said than done when you’re facing off against the defending Super Bowl champs.
If you look at recent history between these two teams — let’s just call recent history “the Bill O’Brien Era” — the Chiefs are probably the most historically significant opponent the Texans have had outside of the division. Other than 2018, the two teams have also played each other every regular season (plus a second game in the playoffs TWICE) since 2015. Here’s how it’s gone:
2015, Week 1, Chiefs 27-20
Brian Hoyer benched after three quarters for Ryan Mallett
2015, Playoffs, Chiefs 30-0
Brian Hoyer commits five turnovers, J.J. Watt tears his groin muscle and has to be helped off the field.
2016, Week 2, Texans 19-12
Texans get off to a 2-0 start with Brock Owweiler at quarterback! Good times!
2017, Week 5, Chiefs 42-30
Sunday night loss, Watt and Mercilus go out for the year with injuries within about ten plays of each other.
2019, Week 6, Texans 31-24
At the time (and maybe still) the biggest regular season win of the O’Brien Era
2019, Playoffs, Chiefs 51-31
We all know what happened, no need to rehash that game right now
Now, the two teams face off tonight in a match-up that is historic more for what it means to the viewing public trying to escape a world that’s gone loco. Here are four things to watch for tonight, when the Texans and Chiefs kick off the 2020 season at 7:20 p.m.:
Deshaun’s new toys
We all know the big story of the Texans’ offseason — Bill O’Brien trading DeAndre Hopkins for a pile of magic beans. Well, we now must turn the page, and see what those magic beans will yield, and a big part of that pile of beans is running back David Johnson, who came over in that trade and has looked good during training camp. Beyond that, we will get our first look at the new look passing game, predicted on speed all over the field, with Brandin Cooks, one of the best deep threats in the game, joining Randall Cobb and the (hopefully healthy) Will Fuller in what should be a fun passing attack. One of Deshaun’s superhero powers is his deep ball, and my guess is we will see plenty of those on Thursday night and throughout the season.
Anthony Weaver’s debut
On the other side of the ball, when we last saw the Chiefs, they were hanging 51 points on the Texans in about 40 minutes of football in the playoff loss back in January. The Texans really didn’t do much in the way of personnel changes on that side of the ball this past offseason, with the main moves being the use of three of their top four draft picks on defensive players, and swapping out Tashaun Gipson and replacing him with Eric Reid at safety. The biggest change was the promotion of Anthony Weaver from defensive line coach to defensive coordinator. While Weaver has spent the last four seasons working for Romero Crennel (and Mike Vrabel for one season in 2017), I would look for Weaver to bring more schemes like his other career mentor, Rex Ryan. Look for some more aggressive ways to pressure the passer, a necessity if the Texans are to win tonight.
Target on KC’s back
There’s an old saying when you experience success — “act like you’ve been there before.” Well, forgive the Chiefs if they don’t know how to act like a gracious champion, seeing as it was about 50 years between Super Bowl wins. Where I’m going with this is that a few of the Chiefs players, defensive tackle Chris Jones and wide receiver Tyreek Hill specifically, did some interviews this offseason where they intimated that the Chiefs could win five, six, even SEVEN titles. Very endearing! (Not really) The talk, for some reason, went immediately from “Chiefs win the Super Bowl” to “Wow, possible dynasty!” way too quickly. How they operate after a season of the world wanting to have figurative sex with them will be very interesting to see. there are 31 teams gunning for them hardcore now.
Quarter full Arrowhead Stadium
The presentation of the game will undoubtedly look strange tonight, as Arrowhead Stadium will be filled to a paltry 22 percent capacity (around 16,000 people). The fans will be socially distance from each other in six person pods, with each pod made up of people who are willingly in the same group (friends and family, presumably). This combined with some ambient crowd noise provided by the NFL (to be played over the P.A. system) will give at least the small feel of a home field advantage, but make no mistake — this is MUCH better than going into a Chiefs Kingdom with 80,000 drunks on a Thursday night.
SPREAD: Chiefs -8.5
PREDICTION: Chiefs 37, Texans 31