The Kansas City Chiefs will welcome the Houston Texans to Arrowhead Stadium Sunday afternoon as they try to hold on to their perfect 6-0 record. They’ll get to try and pick up the victory while facing a struggling Texans team starting their third string quarterback.
Many Texans fans have been calling for young Case Keenum to get a chance, but I doubt they would want it to come against the NFL’s best pass rush in the loudest stadium in the world. But that’s how Keenum’s debut will go down as the Texans try to find a spark to get their team back on track after four straight losses.
For the Chiefs, they’ll be looking to simply keep their defense churning out the kind of heat that has propelled them from the cellar to one of the best team’s in the league. If they can rattle Keenum anywhere near the way they did Terrelle Pryor last weekend, Andy Reid’s offense can continue to deliver uneven results without much backlash.
Very simply, Alex Smith and most everyone on the Chiefs offense without “Charles” on the back of their jerseys has been unable to deliver much firepower. If the Kansas City defense doesn’t produce points, the offense will need to go to work against a Houston team that is a lot like the Chiefs.
No team has allowed less yards in the air than the Texans, but only five are surrendering more on the ground.
That’s good news for Jamaal Charles, who is having another fantastic season. The one worry is that the Chiefs explosive running back will wear down if he continues to carry the offense without any help from his backups.
The last three weeks Charles has taken every carry by a running back except two. TWO. That’s something that has to change if Kansas City plans on playing in the postseason with their best player leading the charge.
On Sunday, the focus in Arrowhead won’t be on Charles (or his backups), but rather Keenum. Can he work some magic the way he did while starring at the University of Houston despite being hunted by a ferocious defense?
As we prepare to get the answer to that question Sunday, here is a look at the three players for the Chiefs on offense, defense and special teams that will be most important for another Kansas City win.
Offense: Alex Smith
Another clear sign that the Chiefs need to get more work out of their running backs is that Smith is the team’s second-leading rusher. He’s not here for anything he will do with his legs on Sunday.
Instead, we continue to wait for Smith to lead the Kansas City offense with his arm. Lately he has been inconsistent — at best — and he’s fresh off an ugly 14-for-31 performance for just just 128 yards against the Tennessee Titans.
After completing nearly 63 percent of his passes Week 3 in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Smith’s efficiency has dropped each week: 58.5, 51.3 and 45.2. Smith isn’t a guy that is expected — or needed — to put up huge numbers, but he does need to keep things moving without just relying on Charles.
Defense: Derrick Johnson
Who better to welcome Keenum to the NFL than the longest tenured Chief? Johnson is the Chiefs leading tackler and was a big part of keeping Pryor from doing even more damage last week than seven carries for 56 yards.
While trying to keep an eye on Pryor, Johnson finished with nine tackles and two sacks. Last week in the Texans loss to the Rams, it was the St. Louis linebackers that were doing the most damage, including the latest pick-six courtesy of Alec Ogletree.
Johnson, already the owner of three interception return touchdowns, he’s the perfect candidate to help stretch the Texans pick-six streak to five games.
Special Teams: Quintin Demps
In the three weeks since ripping off a 57-yard return against the Philadelphia Eagles, Demps has only had a chance to return two kicks including being shut out last weekend.
The Chiefs have had fantastic field position thanks in large part to punter Dustin Colquitt’s weekly magic. But Demps has the capability to do his part and the Texans could give him the chance to show it.
Teams have attempted nearly two kick returns per game this season against the Texans. The only way I’d expect Demps to be held under that number is if Houston only ends up kicking off once.