Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans Betting: Hopkins gives Houston the edge

JJ Watt will lead the charge for Houston's defense
JJ Watt will lead the charge for Houston's defense

We have a battle of the defenses to open up this year's NFL play-offs. But DeAndre Hopkins could be the game-changer who secures victory for Houston, according to our analyst Neil Harvey...

"Houston are mean on defense. They've held five of their last nine opponents to a measly six points. It doesn't get much better than that."

Houston Texans v Kansas City Chiefs Saturday, 21:35 Live on Sky Sports 1 Gee, this game could be close. Both sides are bang in form. Both have devilishly strong defenses. And across the board, these teams match up closely with regards to their performances this season. Perhaps then no surprise to find that when the teams met in Week One, their was little to separate them. Kansas sneaked that one on the road, 27-20. And amazingly, it was the Kansas passing game that proved the difference, with tight end Travis Kelce nabbing two scores and a hundred yards, while quarterback Alex Smith threw for three touchdowns and 243 yards. That's about as good as it got though for Smith this season. Quite simply, Kansas are a running-football team. In fact, nobody has scored more running TDs than the Chiefs (19). Their passing attack though is among the very worst in the league, with only two teams having thrown for fewer yards. Indeed, their entire aerial game rests in the hands of two players, Kelce (five TDs) and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (8). Maclin is the in-form player. And he can take catches in any position, short, deep, left, right, or through the centre. He'll be the go to man for Alex Smith when it comes to moving the chains through the air. Maclin's certain to be a marked man though. And he'll be under pressure from the league's third best pass defense. The Texans have snuffed out much better passing attacks than Kansas this season, with both Tom Brady and Drew Brees limited to less than 230 yards. So while Smith will mix it up, he's unlikely to have much success. And he'll also be under a lot of pressure, with two-time defensive player of the year JJ Watt (17.5 sacks) leading the charge. Houston are mean on defense. They've held five of their last nine opponents to a measly six points. It doesn't get much better than that. Kansas will run the ball, a lot. They may have lost star back Jamaal Charles to injury, but the strong offensive line has enabled Charcandrick West to pick up the slack almost seamlessly, with Spencer Ware in able support. These two will pound hard upon the Houston door. Again and again. And whether they succeed to knock it off its hinges will largely determine who wins. Let's not forget another source of points though for the Chiefs - their defense. Indeed, it will highly likely be a big defensive play that decides this contest. The Kansas D produced the second most interceptions in the league this season and will be waiting to pounce on Brian Hoyer, who's likely to get the nod under center. But his selection is as likely to instill as much fear into the hearts of his own fans as it is the opposition. Much like Alex Smith, Hoyer isn't an especially good passing QB. He's more of a game manager. But he does have one huge advantage over Smith, and that's wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins is as good as you'll see anywhere. He's produced 11 TDs and more than 1500 yards in bog-standard Houston attack. He doesn't even get that much support from the Texans running game, which Alfred Blue has struggled to carry since the loss to injury of Arian Foster. And it doesn't matter who's throwing him the ball, he catches it. The mind boggles at just how good DeAndre's numbers could be in a strong offensive team as opposed to one built on defense. Kansas will be all over Hopkins. But then so has every other team this season. And it made no difference. They couldn't stop him. Big, strong, fast and with a great leap, Hopkins can prove the differential here in a contest that could have very few points. The Houston running game isn't as strong as that of Kansas, but success for Hopkins here could free up some space for Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes. By contrast, I just can't see Alex Smith and Maclin having the same effect. Kansas will run hard and throw when they have too. Houston will mix it up. Both defenses should dominate and turnovers will be priceless. But also, occasional big plays on offense will be crucial, and I think DeAndre Hopkins is the man most likely to supply them. Houston also have home advantage. And crucially, they get a field goal headstart on the handicap, which is just too big to refuse. The Chiefs may be on a 10 game winning steak, but all good things come to an end. And I think their good run ends in Houston. Recommended Bets 2pts Houston (+3.5) to beat Kansas @ 1.9010/11 Total Points to be Under 40.5 @ 1.9620/21 DeAndre Hopkins to score first/anytime touchdown @ 10.009/1

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