Mirror-image teams in many ways. Two offenses built around elite running backs and one trusted wideout that can avoid taking many huge chances thanks to studly defensive units. Except Houston is a dumpster fire.
Texans-Chiefs Spread: Chiefs -6
The difference is Alex Smith has performed the “game manager” role — or whatever you want to call uber-conservatism in an increasingly pass-aggressive league — far better than Matt Schaub has and unlike Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles hasn’t lost a step this year. Whether Schaub — or given Schaub’s injury and disastrous play, maybe TJ Yates — and Foster can return to 2011-2012 form could make all the difference here.
The merciless butt-whooping doled by the St. Louis Rams in Houston, while KC simultaneously brutalized Terrelle Pryor and the Oakland Raiders — sets this line at a distant place from where it would have landed last week.
Each squad has the horses on defense to contend for a playoff berth from line straight back to secondary. Smith and Schaub are two quarterbacks you very much need protected right now, so there should be extra attention paid to the likes of JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Justin Houston, Dontari Poe and Tamba Hali.
Key Matchup: Andre Johnson vs. Brandon Flowers
Flowers fought through injury to shadow Dez Bryant earlier this season, and was thoroughly dominated. Nonetheless, it was a valiant effort against the league’s most filthy receiver and that might be good enough to cut off the most reliable supply off pass offense for Houston. Pro Football Focus recently rated Flowers as a top-3 cornerback over the past five years of play, and his best can give Johnson real trouble.