The Texans came out like gangbusters during their 2019 divisional playoff showdown with the Chiefs. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, fresh off of his first playoff victory, helped Houston streak out to a 24-0 lead in the game's first 19 minutes. The Chiefs, however, roared back in historic fashion, becoming the first team in NFL history to overcome that big of a deficit in a playoff game. When the dust settled, the Chiefs -- led by Patrick Mahomes' five touchdown passes -- walked away with a 51-31 win, the first of three straight playoff wins that saw Kansas City overcome a double-digit deficit.
The excitement on the field that day, along with the fact that the Chiefs are the defending champions, were likely the two main reasons the NFL has pitted these two teams against one another in the first regular season game of the 2020 season. While both teams made several personnel changes during the offseason, the Texans and Chiefs still possess two of the game's most dynamic quarterbacks in Watson and Mahomes, who both received massive extensions this offseason. And while the Chiefs are a trendy pick to successfully defend their title, the Texans are out to show that they should still be considered among the NFL's best teams despite trading away one of the league's top players this offseason.
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The Chiefs are bringing back most of their starters from last year's championship team. Two noticeable absences on the offense will be right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and running back Damien Williams, who chose to opt out of playing this season. Andrew Wylie, who started at left guard last season, will slide over to right guard. Taking over at left guard will be Kelechi Osemele, a nine-year veteran who earned two Pro Bowl nods during his time with the Raiders. Williams will be replaced by rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who rushed for 16 touchdowns last season while helping LSU capture the national championship.
The Chiefs' defense, one of the league's best during the second half of the '19 season, includes three returning Pro Bowlers in defensive tackle Chris Jones (nine sacks last season), Frank Clark (eight sacks) and safety Tyrann Mathieu (four interceptions). Kansas City's defense is also expecting significant contributions from rookies Willie Gay and L'Jarius Sneed. Gay and Sneed will look to contribute to a Chiefs' defense that finished seventh in the NFL in scoring, eighth in pass defense, and ninth in red zone efficiency last season.
Houston's roster has seen several changes since January's playoff loss to Kansas City. While coach Bill O'Brien's decision to trade away DeAndre Hopkins received understandable criticism, the Texans did manage to make some decent roster decisions. Instead of signing another big name receiver to replace Hopkins, the Texans acquired several productive wideouts in veterans Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks along with rookie Isaiah Coulter. The team was also able to acquire running back David Johnson, a former All-Pro who was used sparingly during his final year with the Cardinals.
Following last year's meltdown in Arrowhead, Houston responded by spending its first two draft picks on defense, acquiring former TCU defensive lineman Ross Blacklock with the 40th pick and former Florida EDGE rusher Jonathan Greenard with the 90th pick. The Texans then spent a fourth-round pick on former Penn State cornerback John Reid, who bolstered his draft stock after a solid performance at the NFL combine. All three players are expected to make big contributions in 2020.
While Houston should put up a good fight, the Chiefs should be able to take care of business on Thursday night. As they did with Kareem Hunt in the team's season-opener in 2017, don't be surprised if Kansas City decides to showcase Edwards-Helaire, who received high marks from his teammates and coaching staff during training camp. The Chiefs' defense will likely apply pressure on Watson, who will have to find his new go-to receiver after losing Hopkins.
Pick: Chiefs 34, Texans 20
Check out CBSSports.com for even more predictions on this game and the rest of Week 13, including from Pete Prisco and Will Brinson.