3TFO Texans @ Chiefs, Week 7
Looking at the upcoming contest between the streaking Chiefs and fading Texans, Chris Phillips finds three areas that hold the key.
3TFO Texans @ Chiefs, Week 7
Things don’t get any easier for the struggling Houston Texans as they head to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City this week. The 2-4 Texans have been in a tail spin the past few weeks, even getting blown out at home by the Rams. Houston’s biggest struggle has been protecting the quarterback — their -24.6 team pass blocking grade is 31st in the league — but the play of the QBs has left something to be desired as well as Matt Schaub and TJ Yates have combined for a -10.4 passing grade (a number that would rank 37th out of 38 quarterbacks). The Texans just announced that the unproven Case Keenum will start for them at quarterback on Sunday.
Kansas City’s passing game has struggled as well — overall, their -15.0 team passing grade is 30th in the league. The 6-0 Chiefs, though, have been able to make up for that deficiency with a stifling defense. Weak schedule or not, they’re allowing less than 11 points per game and our PFF team grades show that dominance as well, as they perform well in all phases. Their overall team defensive grade of +101.7 is easily tops in the league. They have the No. 2 run grade, the top pass rush and coverage grades, and are even No. 1 in the penalty category with a +12.5 mark in that area. This leads into our first matchup, which includes two key catalysts in their defense.
Texans Tackles vs. Hali and Houston
To have any chance of moving the ball through the air, the Texans need to do what no one else has been able to do — neutralize Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. The Texans counter with Duane Brown and Derek Newton. Brown has a -2.0 pass blocking grade thus far this year — a year after his +18.7 mark was eighth among all tackles and two years removed from a finish of seventh overall in 2011. He needs to rediscover his form this week. Things look even bleaker on the right side. Derek Newton’s -13.6 pass blocking grade ranks 74th (last) among all tackles and his 90.8 Pass Blocking Efficiency is 56th out of 61.
Hali and Houston have been the most dominant edge rushing duo thus far this season. They rank second and third in our overall 3-4 OLB grades, and second and third in pass rushing grades as well. The top spot on our Pass Rushing Productivity Signature Stat is held by Hali with an 18.1 rating and his 52 total pressures are a league best with Justin Houston’s 34 next in line. Houston ranks fourth with a PRP of 14.0 and their 16 combined sacks pace all edge rush combos. If the Texans struggle to run the ball right away, it will be a long day no matter who they have at quarterback.
Poe vs. Myers
Dontari Poe plays a few different positions on the Chiefs’ D-line but always sees a good number of snaps at nose tackle. Poe has our sixth overall run grade for interior lineman at +6.3. His five sacks tie him for first among NT/DTs and he has generated 15 overall pressures, proving that he can push the pocket and create problems in the passing game as well. Struggling at times as a rookie, Poe is now showing that his combination of size and freak athletic ability can present different matchup problems every week.
When Poe does line up at the nose he will run into Houston center Chris Myers, easily our highest graded at the position overall and his +8.6 run grade is second. He has a positive grade in all four phases — pass blocking, run blocking, penalties, and even screen blocking. These two might not be matched up all game, but when they are it should be a great battle.
Charles vs. Texans Linebackers
Jamal Charles presents enough problems with his running — he has explosive speed and big-play ability — but he also happens to be Alex Smith’s favorite check-down target. With 33 receptions and a pair of TDs, his 48 targets lead all running backs and his 300 receiving yards are second. Charles is definitely the engine of the Chiefs’ offense as, at times, it seems like the check-downs to him are the only plays that keep the chains moving.
Brian Cushing and Joe Mays will be tasked with coverage on Charles when the Texans are in their base defense, and both have struggled in that phase of play. Cushing has a -1.3 grade and Mays’ -3.6 is 42nd out of 51 inside linebackers. If the Texans decide to cover him with a safety from time to time, their options are the rookie DJ Swearinger or the aging Ed Reed. If the Texans get the usual dominance from JJ Watt up front and can erase big plays from Charles in the passing game, the Kansas City offense will sputter.
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