Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 15: Chiefs-Texans — Four Things To Watch For

No Dameon Pierce means a whole lot more Rex Burkhead, so be prepared.
No Dameon Pierce means a whole lot more Rex Burkhead, so be prepared. Eric Sauseda
As the Houston Texans' 2022 season continues to slide into an abyss, the bottom of which is populated by the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, at least the opponents that they are facing bring some juice to the table. Two weeks ago, we got to see Deshaun Watson's Cleveland debut. A week ago, the Texans almost upset the Dallas Cowboys. Now, in advance of three divisional games to close out the season, here come the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs are arguably the best team in football, built to last for a long, long time because of a head coach with an effective, definitive offensive system and plan, and a quarterback whose arm talent seems to have been installed by one of those droid factories in any number of Star Wars movies. Patrick Mahomes is an "arm talent" freak.

As for recent history, you could argue the Chiefs were the main impetus behind the firing of Bill O'Brien, considering the 51-31 playoff loss handed to the Texans in January 202o drove O'Brien to the offseason madness that was low-lighted by the DeAndre Hopkins trade. Then, to open the 2020 season the Chiefs handed O'Brien the first of four losses that got him canned by October.

Now, the Chiefs are just the latest musclebound freak to kick sand in the Texans' collective face. This Sunday, the two teams face off. Here are a few things to watch for:

4. Jalen Pitre
There have not been many bright spots for the Texans this season, and with Dameon Pierce out for the foreseeable future (more on that in a minute), there is at least one fewer bright spot to cling to on Sunday. However, rookie safety Jalen Pitre's development has been really fun to watch over the  course of the season, and in particular, the last couple weeks. Against Cleveland, he had an interception and 16 tackles. Against Dallas, he had 12 tackles and several bodies laid out by big hits. On Sunday, he will be have his toughest assignment to date when he is asked to slow down a Chiefs offense that murders the middle of the field with Travis Kelce and others. Last week, Patrick Mahomes was very careless against the Broncos and threw three picks, so perhaps the opportunistic Pitre can make a play or two that allow the Texans to hang around.

3. Replacing Dameon Pierce
Now, we get to Pierce. Against the Cowboys, Pierce suffered a fourth quarter, high ankle sprain that caused him to miss the rest of the game. That led to Rex Burkhead getting multiple, pathetic goal line touches, which led to the city of Houston burning to the ground. On Sunday, the weenie roast will start at kickoff, with Pierce out for at least one game (and perhaps as many as three games) and Lovie Smith confirming that Dare Ogunbowale and Burkhead will try to carry the load in Pierce's absence. This will be perhaps the most unwatchable running game in the history of the team.

2. Two headed quarterback
I will give Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton some credit for last Sunday's game plan versus Dallas (oh, don't worry, they are about to get skewered in the final bullet point of this post). The offensive game plan, incorporating two VERY divergent styled quarterbacks was very creative, and from a snap count standpoint, largely well deployed. Now, in Sunday, they will need to do it again, but without Pierce, it's uncertain how much they can run the ball at all, which might limit how much Driskel gets used this week, as opposed to last week. Last week, the QB snaps were split evenly at 33 apiece.

1. Lovie and Pep
So when I say what a masterful job Smith and Hamilton did in concocting a "hang around with the Cowboys" game plan, it all gets cancelled out by the complete butchering of the drive following Tremon Smith's second pick, the "goal to go" drive that could have sealed the game for the Texans, if they could have scored a touchdown. The previous week, against Cleveland, Hamilton butchered a goal to go situation by not even having Dameon Pierce on the field. That the Texans are playing close enough games to where decisions like this matter is, sadly, progress, but I'm just waiting to see how Lovie Smith and Pep Hamilton drive one more nail in their collective coffin this weekend.

SPREAD: Texans +14
PREDICTION: Chiefs 45, Texans 17
SEASON RECORD: 9-3-1 SU, 5-7-1 ATS


Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast