Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs: Supporting cast gives Mahomes the edge

Kansas City Chiefs
Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are two key weapons for the Chiefs on Sunday

After their dramatic Wildcard win the Houston Texans face the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round. Ben Steele expects an intense quarterback battle...

"While Hill, Kelce and Hardman are linking up with Patrick Mahomes through the air, running back Damien Williams could well be the X-factor in the game."

Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, 20:05 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Main Event

Mahomes and Watson serve up a shootout

The Kansas City Chiefs start their search for a Super Bowl knowing that they will need their offence firing during Sunday's game. The Houston Texans come in to the game riding high after an impressive comeback victory over the Buffalo Bills where Deshaun Watson showed exactly why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. The 24-year-old signal caller produced, arguably, the signature play of his young career as he bounced off a couple of defenders before finding an open receiver to set up a game winning field goal last week and will be looking to produce more of the same.

Watson will be relying on his near telepathic connection with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to give his team a chance. Hopkins, a perennial Pro Bowler, caught 104 passesin the regular season and continued to cement his status as an unstoppable force. The Chiefs are a Top 10 defence against the pass this term but Hopkins is effectively immune to his opposition, and Watson was able to find success against a Top 5 pass defence last week so I'm expecting the pair of them to show up big in Kansas City.

The Chiefs have their own star connection between the quarterback and receiver, Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill have been outstanding yet again, so we look to be in for an entertaining game. Both men have battled injury at times this season but when they are fully fit, as they are now, they have the ability to score from anywhere. Hill is possibly the fastest man in the NFL and Mahomes throws the deep ball better than anyone, so the Texans will need to be wary of that.

Look for both Mahomes and Watson to be productive and an #OddsOnThat bet backing both of them to throw 3+ touchdowns is a good price at 9/1.

Kansas options hold the key

With two outstanding quarterbacks on show, both Head Coaches Bill O'Brien and Andy Reid will know that getting the best out the receivers, running game and defences will be of upmost importance. This is where Kansas hold the trump cards, after Hopkins the Texans have Kenny Stills and Will Fuller in their receiving corps who have been inconsistent throughout the season. Fuller, in particular, is key to the Texans offensive scheme but there are big doubts over his ability to play for the full game as he continues to struggle with a groin problem.

By contrast, Chiefs coach Andy Reid will feel a lot more comfortable with his options. When it comes to stretching the field, Tyreek Hill is the best in the business but there is a decent argument that rookie Mecole Hardman has a similar skill set. Hardman is more of a boom or bust type of receiver, averaging over 20 yards per reception, but the threat of both him and Hill opens up space for other Kansas City weapons. Travis Kelce is a complete player at the tight end position, he blocks well and is an outstanding receiver. He is incredibly adept at exploiting the spaces created by the Chiefs' receivers and will fancy his chances of scoring a playoff touchdown for the third year in a row.

While Hill, Kelce and Hardman are linking up with Patrick Mahomes through the air, running back Damien Williams could well be the x-factor in the game. The 27-year-old has emerged as starter for the Chiefs and his explosive running style gives him a real chance to perform well against a Texans defence who have struggled against the run. Williams offers a dynamism that helps keep the opposition guessing, unlike the Texans who often rely on Watson scrambling to provide a run game. The former Miami Dolphin is another good bet to score.

Don't mess with Texans

Sunday's game at Arrowhead Stadium is the only Divisional Round matchup that is a repeat of a regular season game. The Texans and Chiefs faced off in Week 6, a game that saw Houston fight back 17-3 behind to win 31-24. The game highlighted some of the weaknesses in the Chiefs' defence, particularly against mobile quarterbacks, which they have managed to improve as the season progressed but it should give some cause for concern for Chiefs backers.

Kansas will certainly miss rookie safety Juan Thornhill who has been impressive in his first season so the Texans should have some joy. With that in mind I think that backing Houston +9.5 is a good bet, even if the Chiefs will still be confident of a win, and we could be in for a nailbiter.

Ben Steele NFL P/L:

Staked: 66 pts
Returned: 68 pts
P/L: +2 pts

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