DATA DEPENDENT: Kansas City Chiefs vs Houston Texans in the NFL opener

After a spring and summer of COVID-19 uncertainty, the 2020 NFL season kicks off on September 10 between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans. So far as opening day possibilities go, it’s really not a bad one. It could have been worse. We could be watching the Chargers vs. Bengals in the Battle of the Cellar Dwellers (at least the 2019 version).

On the surface, the opener between the Chiefs and Texans looks like a juicy do-over of last season’s divisional playoff matchup. It was a ridiculously exciting game that saw the Chiefs go down by twenty-one points in the first quarter to take a four point 28-24 lead by the time the halftime whistle blew. It was a performance that demonstrated that with the spotlight on KC quarterback Patrick Mahomes, he was ready to embrace the spotlight and do that superstar thing.

The duel at quarterback is a juicy one. Both DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes are the running and gunning reboots of the position, as much threats running with the ball as passing it.

Mahomes enjoys a system perfectly suited to his talents, thanks to HC Andy Reid and barring injury the pairing ensure the Chiefs will remain in the hunt for back-to-back Super Bowls.

Pass Attempts Completions Pct. Pass Yards Pass TD INT. 1st% Carries Rush Yards Rush TD
DeShaun Watson 495 333 67.27 3852 26 12 38.59 82 413 7
Patrick Mahomes 484 319 65.91 4031 26 5 36.36 43 218 2

Of course, the gargantuan elephant in the room is the absence of one of the best wide receivers in the game, DeAndre Hopkins. In perhaps the most mind boggling trades in recent times, Texans Head Coach/General Manager Bill O’Brien sent away a premier talent for David Johnson, a running back who’s had a hard time recapturing his peak form from 2016. In terms of pure yardage, the Texans have swapped 1165 yards for 345. Net-net, that’s a 820 yard loss.

The Texans’ WR options are pretty much average. Their big addition comes in the form of Randall Cobb, whose 828 yards last season are the best numbers he’s posted since 2016. As with David Johnson, the Texans are hoping Cobb’s numbers last season represent a sustained return to form. Rounding out the wide receivers, veterans Will Fuller V, Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills, and Keke Coutree will all be expected to chip in yardage.

The Chiefs held on to their first choice wide receiver, Tyreek Hill, who posted 860 yards last season on 58 receptions. Sammy Watkins also returns but expectations for him have fallen back to earth, unfortunately.

In terms of their ground games, the Texans and Chiefs are equally mediocre and are banking on unproven players to make decent contributions.

Defensively, the Texans have JJ Watt to lean on, considering he continues building on what he established last season before being pectoral injury sidelines him. Linebackers Bernardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham rank among two of the best tacklers in the league. Overall, they’ve been defensively suspect. Fortunately, their opponents aren’t exactly the Steel Curtain reincarnated.

According to Sports Betting Dime, the overall consensus favors the Chiefs over the Texans.

They also predict Mahomes and the Chiefs to register a comfortable win over the Texans.

(NOTE: At the time this article was written, the O/U was 54.5.)

After running 1000 game simulations, our results actually favored the Houston Texans who defeated the Super Bowl champs 56% of the time (that’s 44% Chiefs wins for all you math whizzes out there).

With all due respect to the vigor of our soon to be algorithmic overlords, I’ll respectfully disagree with those results and run with the consensus. There’s a time and place for swimming against the tide. Texans over the Chiefs ain’t it.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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