After months of speculation, it appears the NFL season will begin on schedule.
To kick off the season, the Houston Texans will take on the reigning champions Kansas City Chiefs. The last time these two teams met was in last year’s AFC Divisional Round matchup. Since that game, however, a lot has changed for both teams.
Preview: The Houston Texans
The Houston Texans had one of the worst offseasons in recent history. There is no other way to put it. Every one of Bill O’Brien’s moves has been under scrutiny and for a good reason.
The worst move by the General Manager was sending superstar wide receiver Deandre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. In return, they received a 2020 second-rounder (which became TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock), a 2021 4th rounder, and running back David Johnson.
While the jury is still out on the 4th rounder next year and the rookie Blacklock, Johnson himself is not much of a player anymore. Johnson is two years removed from a season in which he only played one game. He also hasn’t had a 1,000 rushing yard season since 2016. When you factor in the fact that the Texans gave up a player as talented as Hopkins to get an uncertain player at best in Johnson, the deal continues to look worse.
To cover for the Hopkins deal, the Texans then traded a second-round pick in the past draft for Brandin Cooks. While Cooks is a solid player, the Texans traded a second-round pick that could’ve been used on a much cheaper, higher potential rookie. Cooks will be earning a large salary this upcoming season, money that O’Brien neglected to use on Hopkins’ contract.
The Texans also lost stellar defensive tackle D.J Reader to the Bengals after Reader signed a four year, 53 million dollar contract this offseason. The Texans will hope that Ross Blacklock can fill the gap for Reader on a much more cost-effective deal.
Finally, the Texans made one good move when they signed star QB Deshaun Watson to a lucrative extension. Watson’s deal is worth four years, 177 million dollars, roughly 39 million per year. While Watson will be the 4th highest-paid quarterback when that deal comes into effect, he deserves every penny of it, and the Texans would’ve been much worse off had they traded Watson instead of Hopkins.
The Kansas City Chiefs
After a dominant run in the playoffs that ended with a ring, the Chiefs did what most championship teams do. They focused on keeping the majority of their roster and locked up key players for the long term.
The two most notable deals were superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes and underrated defensive tackle Chris Jones. Mahomes made headlines after absolutely shattering the NFL record for the largest contract ever.
According to Spotrac, the deal was ten years, 450 million, with more than 140 million guaranteed. However, some estimated that the agreement could ultimately end up being worth north of 500 million.
Jones signed a four year, 80 million dollar deal with 60 million guaranteed. While Mahomes is undoubtedly the more prominent name of the two, Jones is arguably the Chiefs best defensive player. The former Mississippi State product combined for 24.5 sacks over the last two seasons with the Chiefs. He also earned a stellar 88.3 grade from Pro Football Focus for the previous season. Both players were highly deserving and will be essential to any success for the Chiefs in the future.
There were only three notable losses for the Chiefs this offseason. The first is cornerback Kendall Fuller who signed a four year, 40 million dollar deal with the Washington Football Team. The Chiefs will look to replace Fuller with safety/cornerback hybrid Juan Thornhill.
The next two were due to the COVID-19 opt-out option. The Chiefs lost starting guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif as well as last season’s starting running back Damien Williams. Duvernay-Tardif was a vital part of that offensive line, only giving up three penalties and two sacks all of last season, according to Pro Football Focus. The Chiefs signed former Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele to a 1-year deal to replace Duvernay Tardif. Williams was the team’s leading rusher last season, although he only produced 498 rushing yards. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire will replace Williams in the backfield. Edwards Helaire was a part of the legendary LSU team that won the national championship back in January. He figures to have similar success in Andy Reid’s RB friendly offense.
Head to Head Preview
While the Texans gave the Chiefs a run for their money the last time around, it would be surprising to see that scenario unfold again on Thursday night. The lack of turnover in the Chiefs roster will significantly help them in this game. The Chiefs will have no problem passing the ball on what is a below-average secondary.
The Texans ranked 29th in the league last season in passing yards allowed. They also ranked 27th in passing touchdowns allowed. With a stellar attack of Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, and Mecole Hardman, the Chiefs should have no issue getting Mahomes an abundance of passing yards and touchdowns in the opening game.
Watson may also struggle against a secondary that includes Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill, and others. Also, Watson lost his former number one target and was not able to develop a rapport with the incoming receivers due to the shortened offseason. Watson will keep the Texans competitive, but the Chiefs will overwhelm the Texans in the end.