So Houston went from being a consistent, top team back to the roller coaster model of inconsistency that theyve always been since their inception. However, for the next weeks coming up, Houston cant afford that. This week Houston gets a break from the typical pass happy teams and faces Kansas City who is one of the best rushing teams in the NFL. Theyve found ways to win every week and are have one of the best records in the NFL. Houston needs a good game to head into the bye week with and to keep the season on track as theyre still tied for first in the AFC South (granted, so are all three teams). If they lose, it could be the slippery slope that we all have seen before and fear. Lets see if they get back to their winning ways of if the Chiefs continue their dominance. Houstons Running Game vs. Kansas Citys Run D: Kansas City is one of the top run defenses in the league so this will be a battle. However, 3 of the 4 teams theyve shut down rank 20th or worse in rushing offense. Whether thats a testament to their run defense or facing passing offenses is yet to be determined. Up front, Kansas City will stack tackles Shaun Smith and Glenn Dorsey around nose tackle Ron Edwards (who got looks from Houston as a FA a few years ago). All three do a great job engaging the blockers at the line of scrimmage and getting off blocks. At linebacker are Alan Belcher and Derrick Johnson. Belcher is a bit of a thumper and always seems to be around the ball. He can tend to get washed out a bit because of his lack in stature. Johnson is definitely talented and moves around pretty well to position himself to make plays against the run. The knock on him in college is that he sucked at getting off blocks, but hes much improved. Hali and Vrabel are basically defensive ends in a standup position. For Houston, they need to get creative. Draw plays and mis-directions seemed to work well with Indianapolis. Houston has the athleticism to match up well with Kansas Citys defense, but they need to seal off the ends and keep the tackles occupied. Arian Foster needs to be focused this and be ready to cut it back. Houstons Passing Game vs. Kansas Citys Pass D: Kansas City is a 3-4 team, but whenever theyre in nickel coverage, it looks more like a 2-4 defense with Tamba Hali and Mike Vrabel standing up over the tackles with Edwards and Dorsey in the middle. Out of all of the Chiefs pass rushers, Hali is the only real significant threat sans some crazy blitzes. As far as the secondary goes, the corners are made up of the Brandons. Flowers has started since he was a rookie and has basically shut down every receiver hes faced. He will get his toughest test in Andre Johnson and it will be interesting to see how he fairs against the best WR in the NFL. Carr is a solid corner whos been starting opposite Flowers since they were both rookies. They love to press receivers up in coverage. At safety is the 5th overall pick Eric Berry and John McGraw. Berry is a tough player and a hard hitter. Hes normally a ball hawk, but hes still adjusting to the NFL a bit. As far as McGraw, hes actually done decent so far this season. A lot of times theyll line him up at nickel and let him man up on the tight ends. As far as coverages, the corners love jamming receivers while theyll play some zone over the middle. None of the linebackers are overly talented in pass coverage. For Houston the first thing they need to do is make sure they get Hali blocked and make Vrabel or someone else get pressure. They also need to expose the middle of the zone much like Indy and Peyton Manning did. The passing lanes will be there, but Schaub needs time. Kansas Citys Running Game vs. Houstons Run D: This is the key to shutting down Kansas City as the run game is their life force on offense. One thing I noticed with their running game is they love traps and pulling players, especially when Charles was in the game. They also love running draw plays and getting defensive ends outside of the play (they did this mercilessly to Freeney and Mathis). If they arent pulling or trapping, you will see the linemen running in a zone scheme which is interesting considering LG Brian Waters and RT Barry Richardson dont seem like they would fit to me. More power to them, they make it work. They have two great running backs with different styles, and thats not even including McCluster. Thomas Jones will get the start and is the primary ball carrier. He may not have breakaway speed, but hes a smart runner. Jamaal Charles is the change of pace/speed running back. The Chiefs will do everything they can to pull players out wide and run traps to open up outside lanes for Charles. Hes definitely the big play threat. For Houston, they must remain disciplined. Kansas City will take advantage of overly aggressive ends or wash out tackles that stand straight up. The key will be the linebackers flowing to the ball as a unit and watching the cutback lanes. Pollard will act like an 8th player in the box as always and needs to contain the outside runs. Kansas Citys Passing Game vs. Houstons Pass D: For once, I have some faith in Houstons pass defense. A lot of it has to do with QB Matt Cassel. Hes a decent starter, but hes more of a game manager than a gun slinger. Something I noticed against the Colts is that he rarely goes through all of his progressions or changes the side of the field hes going to. Granted, a lot of his plays are 3 and 5 step drops, but he keys in on which side he wants to throw to. As far as targets go, his top receiver is Dwayne is Dwayne Bowe. Hes got great size and speed, but has mental lapses and will drop passes. His other receivers will be either Chris Chambers or Dexter McCluster. Chambers is nothing special; I feel hes over the hill and not a serious threat in a run first offense. However McCluster is someone to keep an eye on. He has serious speed and they will get him the ball on screens, draws, and several other ways. At tight end is Tony Moeaki, a 3rd round rookie out of Illinois. Hes got great hands and kind of reminds me of Owen Daniels. For Houston, they need to get after Cassel. He can and will force mistakes and bad throws. I know it wont happen, but put the corners up close in press coverage and make the Chiefs go deep and be a passing team. Id much rather make Cassel beat Houston instead of letting them run crazy and control the clock. POSITION BATTLE QB Advantage: HOUSTON RB Advantage: PUSH WR Advantage: HOUSTON TE Advantage: HOUSTON OL Advantage: PUSH DL Advantage: PUSH LB Advantage: HOUSTON CB Advantage: KANSAS CITY S Advantage: KANSAS CITY K/P Advantage: PUSH RET Advantage: KANSAS CITY X-FACTOR: Demeco Ryans, LB Everyone always jokes that Demeco Ryans is nothing more than a tackling machine and one dimensional. However, this week we definitely could use this against a Kansas City team that loves to run the ball. As discussed earlier, they love to get to the outside using draw plays and zone sweep plays. Demeco will need to be fierce in the middle as an enforcer and be able to play sideline to sideline as all our linebackers will. However, it will be u to DeMeco to be a leader in the defense and set the tone for the entire game. Pollard is also a solid choice as this is his former team and he loves coming up in run support, but thats only part time. Demeco gets the opportunity to focus on the run stuffing the entire game. KEYS TO THE GAME 1) Stop the run and force Cassel to pass the ball. Its easy to say, but not easy to do. The running game for Kansas City is the heart and soul of the offense. Small wonder that they almost average as many rushing yards per game as they do passing yards. As mentioned above, they are clever about it. They utilize a lot of draws and quick traps so the entire defensive line needs to be ready to stand their ground and watch for the cutbacks. I'd much rather make Cassel throw the ball than let Jones and Charles run it down Houston's throat. 2) Find ways to get into the endzone. Something that Kansas City has done amazingly so far is kept teams out of the end zone. They allow about 320 yards per game which is middle of the pack (16th overall), but they still rank 3rd overall in points allowed (3rd overall). They held Indy to 1 TD the entire game; an amazing feat in itself. Houston needs to find ways to score TDs and avoid FGs. Bootlegs and screens could be the key to this. 3) Win the field position battle on special teams. Im talking to you Steve Slaton! After he took over as Houstons kick returner, he has looked terrible averaging less than 20 yards per return. Couple that with the frequent penalties weve seen like holding and block in the back and Houston has been starting close to the 10. They need to figure out a way to get better starting field position like taking Slaton out or trying a few trick plays.