Well, if you're a Houston Texans fan, and certainly if you're one of the players or coaches, it was "crisis averted" last weekend against the Atlanta Falcons, as any of the panic that came about after a Week 4 loss to a Cam Newton-less Panther squad was put on the shelf (for now, at least) amidst an offensive explosion in the 53-32 win over Atlanta.
Deshaun Watson won AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors (again, the second time in three weeks), Will Fuller had a career day (217 yards, three touchdowns), and punter Bryan Anger didn't see the field (other than holding for numerous extra points and field goal attempts, a few missed) after the first drive of the day.
As a result, Bill O'Brien is 3-2, his personal best record through five games, for the third time in his head coaching career. The only time he's made it to 4-2 was in 2016, when Brock Osweiler was his quarterback and J.J. Watt was out for the season, which goes to show you that the path to success in the NFL is somewhat random and weird, at times.
Now, Watt is fully healthy and O'Brien's quarterback is on a different planet compared to Osweiler. The only problem? The opponent is the Kansas City Chiefs, an explosive outfit that is coming off its worst offensive output of the Patrick Mahomes Era. It should be a fun Sunday afternoon, and if the Texans pull it off, Bill O'Brien immediately has a new "biggest win of his head coaching career" to replace the win over the Chargers in Week 3. Let's look at some things to watch for on Sunday.....
4. The Honey Badger
It will be a reunion, of sorts, on Sunday, as the Texans will be going up against one year teammate Tyrann Mathieu, the "Honey Badger." In his short time as a Texan, the 2018 season, Mathieu made a huge impression on Bill O'Brien as a leader (he was voted a captain just weeks after arriving in Houston), and a big enough impression on the Kansas City Chiefs to make him the highest paid safety in the league, at $14 million per year. Really, the safety position as a whole will be on full display, with Mathieu going against his former team, and his replacement, Tashaun Gipson, likely drawing the assignment of covering Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
3. Weapons, weapons everywhere
Kelce is just the beginning when it comes to weapons on the Chiefs. When you start going through their offensive depth chart, when healthy, it feels like one of those old school informercials for Ginsu knives or one of those crappy steam cookers, where they just keep heaping product on you to entice you to buy — "WAIT, THERE'S MORE!" Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Mecole Hardman. But the key is health, and thankfully, Hill may or may not play because of an injured shoulder, Watkins didn't participate in practice on Wednesday, and the guy pulling the trigger, QB Patrick Mahomes, is dealing with an ankle. The Texans, meanwhile, will likely be missing WR Kenny Stills again, but otherwise go into this game very healthy on both dies of the ball.
2. Ka'imi Fairbairn
If this game plays like most Deshaun Watson-skippered road games against good teams, it will come down to some late moments in the game, and will be played within a score either way. In other words, the kicking game could very well come into play, and here is the concern — whether it's been Anger as the new holder (replacing Trevor Daniel), or Fairbairn just has the yips all of a sudden, the kicking operation is failing way too often of late. If this game comes down to a last second field goal attempt by Fairbairn, I am going to be terrified, and might need to be sedated.
1. The new QB battle for the ages
I've said for the last year that the two quarterbacks in this game have a chance to comprise the equivalent of the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry of the 2000s. We know that Mahomes and Watson were taken two picks apart from one another (Mahomes 10th, Watson 12th overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft. We also know that Mahomes was the MVP of the league last season, and as of right now, is the favorite to win it in 2019, too, despite a lackluster last two weeks statistically (one touchdown pass in two games). So Deshaun Watson is the one with the catching up to do, perceptually. Well coming off of his nearly perfect performance against Atlanta (426 yard passing, 5 TD passes), Watson is now third on the MVP odds board, behind only Mahomes and Seattle QB Russell Wilson. With a win in this game by the Texans, Watson will close the gap significantly, and we would really be off and running on the rivalry for the new age. This is absolutely one of those games that Watson keeps the Texans, at the very least, hanging around all afternoon. I think he does more than hang around. I think he pulls off the upset....
SPREAD: Texans +5
PREDICTION: Texans 34, Chiefs 31
SEASON RECORD: 3-2 SU, 3-2 ATS
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