Neil Harvey casts his eye across struggling Houston's trip to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs and fancies the hosts to emerge victorious, despite Arian Foster's best efforts...
"So why are Houston not doing better? Well, that comes down to one thing and one thing alone. Turnovers. The Texans have been more generous than a drunk Santa in terms of how much possession and how many points they've gifted the opposition."
Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs
Start Time: Sunday, 21:25
TV: Live on Sky Sports 2
On first inspection, the Kansas City Chiefs look a big price at 1.42/5 to win against Houston. Very big. Hmmm...suspiciously big in fact.
This is the unbeaten (6-0) Chiefs that we're talking about here. And they're playing a Houston side that at (2-4) has lost its last four games in a row. A Houston side that got humiliated 38-13, at home, by the (3-3) St. Louis Rams. A Houston team whose quarterback, Matt Schaub, was cheered by his own fans when he went down injured, because they were hoping he wouldn't be able to continue. This can't be right. Since when did bookies start giving free money away?
So let's dig deeper. A look at the stats should turn something up. And indeed it does. Something very surprising in fact. And that is that Houston are better at stopping the run than the Chiefs, conceding 4.2 yards per rush compared with the 5.1 yards of Kansas. Houston are also doing more damage when running the ball, gaining an average 4.7 yards on the ground. That's half a yard per carry more than the Chiefs.
So it must be in the passing game that Kansas are vastly superior, right? Wrong! Schaub has thrown for more yards per game and more touchdowns than Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. In fact, the only area where Kansas have an edge on the major stats, is that they have a better pass defense, conceding 0.4 yards per play less than the Texans.
So why are Houston not doing better? Well, that comes down to one thing and one thing alone. Turnovers. The Texans have been more generous than a drunk Santa in terms of how much possession and how many points they've gifted the opposition. Schaub has already thrown nine interceptions this season. That's three times as many as Smith. Smith may gain as many yards, but he treats the ball like a precious object, keeping it safe, whereas Schaub tosses it around like a rag doll.
So perhaps it's lucky for Houston that Schaub will miss this game. His ankle injury means a first ever NFL start for Case Keenum, Houston's third choice QB.
Given that Houston have had an interception returned for a touchdown against them in their last five games, the presence of the newbie quarterback could actually be a blessing. Scouting reports suggest Keenum is small and doesn't possess an especially big throw, but is careful with the ball. It's hard to see the Texans coaching staff giving him too much to do on his debut though. So we should expect to see a lot of handing off to Arian Foster, who could put up big numbers in this game.
It's unfortunate for the Texans that they give up a lot of turnovers, because forcing turnovers is a Kansas speciality. The Chiefs defence may give up yards, but it's mightily aggressive and leads the league in sacks. It's also near the top of the rankings for interceptions, with 10 so far.
The Kansas defence will be coming for young Keenum, have no doubt. With Houston's QB having been sacked 17 times this season, it looks like their offensive line is in for a tough time against the Chiefs' pass rushers. But if Houston are smart, they'll keep the ball in the hands of Foster, who's yet to fumble this season. If the Texans can avoid turnovers, everything suggests that they can keep this game close, in what should be a low-scoring affair.
Back Arian Foster to score anytime touchdown @ 5/6 (Sportsbook)
Back Total points under 41 @3/4 (Sportsbook)
Back Houston(+8) to beat Kansas @ 4/6 (Sportsbook)
Back Kansas Points Under 23 @ 20/21 (Sportsbook)
Arian Foster rushing yards over 85.5 @ 1.855/6 or better when market gains liquidity (Exchange)