With the kick-off of the Steelers and Cheaters last night, we can all, collectively, officially say FOOTBALL IS BACK!!! The Houston Texans open their 2015-2016 season at home against the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday.
With the reigning defensive player of the year, J.J. Watt, anchoring the defense, the Texans seem to have, at least on paper, one of the best defensive units in the league. The offensive side of the ball on the other hand leaves a little….ok, a lot….to be desired. Especially without all-pro RB Arian Foster for at least a few games.
The Chiefs are a tough, hard-nosed football team. They’re well coached by Andy Reid, have two of best pass rushers in the game in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali and signed the premier free agent wide receiver, Jeremy Maclin, who just so happened to absolutely torch the Texans just a year ago. Translation? This one won’t be easy.
Here are three key matchups to watch this Sunday (in order of importance).
3. Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney v. Chiefs RT Eric Fisher
The Texans welcome back Jadeveon Clowney, who is miraculously returning from micro-fracture surgery and will play in game 1. The former #1 pick will be matched up against another former #1 pick in Chiefs RT Eric Fisher. While Clowney will be on a pitch count, this is a matchup that will be fun to watch to see just how close to form Clowney is post injury.
2. Texans LB Brian Cushing v. Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles
Brian Cushing is another player the Texans are hoping is back to 100%. If you watched Hard Knocks, Cushing seems to be both talking the talk, and walking the walk, after injury plagued last few years. A healthy Cushing anchoring the middle of the field will be a huge asset in stopping one of the most explosive running backs in the league, Jamaal Charles.
1. Texans OTs Duane Brown and Derek Newton v. Chiefs OLBs Justin Houston and Tamba Hali
Let’s be honest, Brian Hoyer is already pretty limited in what he can do without one of the most dominant pass rushing tandems in the league coming after him on every snap. Protecting Hoyer needs to be, and will be, a Texans priority entering Sunday. Brown and Newton will need to be on their proverbial “A games” if they want to keep Houston and Tali off of their new signal caller.
If you like to watch defensive slug fests, this game is for you. There will be hard hits, sacks, turnovers and all of the fun you expect from a defensive struggle. In looking at both teams, they are both pretty even on paper. Great pass rushes and questionable QB play will dominate the day. In reality, I think it all comes down to which team makes the least amount of mistakes. Since the Texans are playing at home, I’ll take our hometown boys in a close one.
Chiefs: 13 Texans: 17