Matchups within games go a long way in determining the outcome. For this week’s Divisional Round playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, there are many top players squaring off. Today, we will look towards the Kansas City defense and Houston offense. How will each unit look to gain the upper hand? Let’s explore that here, by examining the game strategies.
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The Option Game
In the matchup earlier this season, the Texans were effective when using run/pass options. The Chiefs defense became hesitant, when not knowing where the ball was going. Run lanes were left wide open. The linebackers were worn down by the trio of Deshaun Watson, Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson. Additionally, shorter passes from Watson spread the defense out and led to missed tackles. Too often, the Texans were able to generate explosive results on plays that looked so simple.
It is important to note that the Chiefs were without impact defensive players like Chris Jones and Anthony Hitchens. To boot, Terrell Suggs and Mike Pennel were not on the team. There is strong reason to believe that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will have a plan in place for the RPOs. Most of all, it will be crucial to limit Watson from using his legs too often. That will be the determining factor in Kansas City’s defense stopping the RPO attack of the Houston offense.
Dime A Dozen
If you have followed the Chiefs during their defensive resurgence, you know the dime package has been a contributing factor. Kansas City is able to get more speed on the field with this. There is six defensive backs in this package, compared to one linebacker. This allows the limitation that Kansas City has for a lack of rangy linebackers to subside.
Despite the injury to Juan Thornhill, Spagnuolo has trust instilled in the replacements. Kendall Fuller and Armani Watts combine to play a true safety role. Both players can interchange at both the free safety and strong safety positions. For Watts in particular, he is effective as a single high safety. The positives he brings to the table, include the ability to close down on routes quickly and make tackles.
How do offenses get confused with this Chiefs dime package? You never know which direction blitzes may be coming from. Quarterbacks have trouble determining exactly what area of the field a defensive back may be covering. Most of all, there are very few spots left wide open on the field. For Kansas City, the dime package is the ultimate weapon against Houston, and infuses more confidence for the Chiefs players.
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Rent Is Due
Piggybacking off the dime package, we now look towards Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu has had a dominant season. He has also filled many different roles on the field. From playing as a true safety, to a cornerback and a blitzer, Mathieu takes on all challengers. There is a case to make that he should be in strong consideration for Defensive Player of the Year. But why?
Offenses have struggled to game plan for him. Mathieu is smart, and he has no problem in saying it. He can tackle ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage, or put one deep half of the field on lock against deep pass attempts. That is going to be key to watch when the Kansas City defense faces the Houston offense. Watson and the Texans are all about living off of explosive plays.
All Or Nothing
According to Football Outsiders, the Texans offense is in the bottom half of the league in offensive efficiency. They live and die off of this flag football type of explosive plays. Watson has the ability to launch the ball all over the field. Furthermore, his top receivers, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, are home run hitters. While they can hit a wall out of nowhere, Houston is aggressive in their play calling. It is important for the Kansas City defense to hold Houston to long down and distance situations. Their offense is the better unit of the team, and this matchup will be a strength versus strength combination.
How will the Kansas City offense matchup against the Houston defense? Find out next time. Also, be on the lookout for the game preview at the end of the week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.