Kansas City Chiefs vs Houston Texans preview

J.J. Watt hopes to be all smiles after the home opener with the Kansas City Chiefs. Photo Courtesy: Rick Leal
J.J. Watt hopes to be all smiles after the home opener with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Photo Courtesy: Rick Leal

Game Info
Kansas City Chiefs vs Houston Texans
Sunday – September 13 – Noon
NRG Stadium – Houston

Following their run on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” the Houston Texans get the regular season underway when they welcome the Kansas City Chiefs to NRG Stadium.

J.J. Watt, who was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in three seasons after racking up 20 1/2 sacks, will be getting some help on his side of the ball this season. Adding to a healthy Jadeveon Clowney is free agent Vince Wilfork and 16th overall pick, cornerback Kevin Johnson who join fellow first round picks Brian Cushing, Kareem Jackson, Whitney Mercilus and Johnathan Joseph on what is poised to be one of the top defensive units in the NFL.

There are far more questions on the offensive side for the Texans as they bid farewell to the franchise’s all-time leading receiver Andre Johnson (1,012 receptions for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns in 12 seasons in Houston) and starting running back Arian Foster is out with a groin injury. Alfred Blue rushed for 528 yards as a rookie last season and will get the majority of the snaps in Foster’s absence.

Brian Hoyer, who won the starting quarterback job over Ryan Mallett in training camp, is coming off a season with a 76.5 passer rating that ranked third-worst among qualifying QBs last year with Cleveland. DeAndre Hopkins, who had a team-best 1,210 yards on 76 catches last season, is tasked with being Hoyer’s top target as he replaces Johnson as the Texans’ top receiver.

“I’m so focused on how we’re going to beat Kansas City, that’s all that’s going through my mind,” Hoyer told ESPN.com. “As I’m sitting here talking to you guys, I’m thinking about what they’re going to do in the red area and how they’re going to play us on third down.”

The Texans keys to the game on offense will be controlling Justin Houston, who is coming off a league-best 22 sacks, a half-sack shy of Michael Strahan’s single-season NFL record. On defense, the Texans will be faced with slowing down running back Jamaal Charles, who is coming off a fifth straight 1,000-yard season. The Chiefs also added a new weapon for quarterback Alex Smith in free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who is coming off career highs of 85 catches and 1,318 yards last year with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Prediction: Houston 20 – Kansas City 17