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Houston Texans vs. Kansas City Chiefs Preview and Predictions 09-10-2020

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The Kansas City Chiefs dispensed with all the spoils, distributing rings, raising a championship banner and roping the moon to pay Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Now comes the hard part.

The Chiefs open defense of their Super Bowl title on Thursday night at home against the Houston Texans.

"You can feel the intensity, you can feel that mentality," Mahomes said. "I think everyone's at the point now where we're just ready to play football again. We had that great year last year, but that's last year. We're a brand-new football team."

At least in some sense. Kansas City does return 17 of 22 starters from a squad that rallied to win all three of its postseason games by double digits.

The defending champions get a stage all their own in a primetime rematch with the Texans at the scene of Kansas City's stunning 2020 playoff win.

Mahomes, the Super Bowl MVP, was rewarded with a 10-year contract worth a record $503 million. Yet the Chiefs still retained other key players in separate negotiations, namely defensive tackle Chris Jones.

They won't get quite the welcome expected for Kansas City's first world champion in a half-century because of crowd restrictions limiting capacity around the NFL -- including at Arrowhead Stadium -- stemming from safety measures related to COVID-19.

Nonetheless, the Chiefs enter the season as a favorite to repeat. Going stale is no concern with head coach Andy Reid, who has his own new contract to cap an offseason in which a few new toys were added.

And not with an offense filled with talented weapons for Mahomes to tap.

"It's tricky to say what's new and what's not new," said tight end Travis Kelce, "because obviously it's no secret what coach Reid does. He puts guys in different positions on the field to succeed and maximizes their strengths, which is why he such an unbelievable offensive mind."

One newcomer to watch will be rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a first-round draft pick expected to start after Damien Williams opted out of the season. Edwards-Helaire showed his versatility while helping LSU capture a national championship last season and poses a threat as a receiver out of the backfield.

"You go in with the mentality, especially with our offense," said Mahomes, "that someone can really have a big game. Clyde's definitely one of those guys."

The Texans, who jumped to a 24-point lead over the Chiefs in the divisional round of last year's playoffs before tumbling 51-31, also have a quarterback armed with a new deal.

Deshaun Watson, like Mahomes a product of the 2017 draft, signed a four-year, $156 million extension last week after leading Houston to two straight AFC South titles.

Houston coach Bill O'Brien said the extension is "a reflection to the team of what we're trying to do here, the commitment he has to winning here and being who he is both on and off the field and the commitment that we have to him relative to our belief in him."

Watson will be transitioning without one of his favorite receivers, DeAndre Hopkins, who was traded during the offseason to Arizona for running back David Johnson. The Texans will be able to spread things out after adding veteran receivers Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks to step in alongside returning deep threat Will Fuller.

"I think DBs, they're always going to fear speed," said Fuller, "so having all that speed on the field at one time, I don't know what they're going to be able to do."

Defensively, the Texans are led by a healthy J.J. Watt, who will try to regain his 2018 form when he recorded 16 sacks.

Houston also must overcome returning to the scene of one of the most improbable playoff plotlines in recent memory. Houston jumped ahead of the Chiefs in January by a score of 24-0, only to experience an historic collapse that helped propel Kansas City to the Lombardi Trophy.

Texans rookie wide receiver Isaiah Coulter will begin the season on injured reserve. The Chiefs enter the game healthy. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland is suspended for four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opted out of the season due to health concerns related to COVID-19.

--Field Level Media

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Key Players to Watch

Stadium

Arrowhead Stadium
Kansas City, Missouri, USA.
Capacity: 76,416

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Last Injuries

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Kelechi Osemele

    Knee
    I-R | I-R

    Oselmele suffered torn tendons in both of his knees, and the team has put him on the injured reserve list.

  • Khalen Saunders

    Elbow
    Ques Sun | I-R

    Saunders has been assigned to the Injured Reserve/Designated for Return list with a dislocated elbow, and the team will have to activate him within three weeks.

  • Martinas Rankin

    Knee
    Ques Sun | I-R

    Rankin has been designated for the PUP list with a patella injury. His three-week window to be activated has now begun.

  • Mitchell Schwartz

    Back
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Schwartz departed the last game with a back injury, and it remains to be seen if he will be active against the Broncos on Sunday.

  • Alex Okafor

    Hamstring
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Okafor was forced from the previous game with a hamstring injury, and it is unclear if he suit up against the Broncos on Sunday.

  • Taco Charlton

    Knee
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Charlton has a knee injury, and it is unclear if he will play Sunday against the Broncos.

  • Anthony Hitchens

    Hand
    Ques Mon | questionable

    Hitchens was forced from the previous game with a hand injury and is now ailing from an illness. It is unknown if he will suit up Monday against the Bills.

  • Anthony Sherman

    Illness
    Out indefinitely | I-R

    Sherman will be on the Injured Reserve/COVID-19 list for an extended period after displaying symptoms of the virus.

Houston Texans

  • Peter Kalambayi

    Hamstring
    Out indefinitely | out

    Kalambayi is out of commission due to a hamstring injury, and he will miss an extended period.

  • Senio Kelemete

    Knee
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Kelemete is nursing a knee injury, and it is uncertain if he will take part in Sunday's contest versus the Packers.

  • Justin Reid

    Shoulder
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Reid is bothered by a shoulder injury, and it is undetermined if he will participate in Sunday's tilt versus the Packers.

  • Laremy Tunsil

    Shoulder
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Tunsil is hampered by a shoulder injury, and his status for Sunday's clash with the Packers is up in the air.

  • Buddy Howell

    Hamstring
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Howell has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, and it is unclear if he will be available Sunday versus the Packers.

  • Vernon Hargreaves III

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Hargreaves III exited the last game with an unspecified injury, and it is unknown if he will face the Packers on Sunday.

  • Lonnie Johnson Jr.

    Face
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Johnson Jr. departed the last game with a facial injury, and it has yet to be established if he will suit up Sunday versus the Packers.

  • Cornell Armstrong

    Knee
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Armstrong sat out the previous game with a knee injury, and it is unknown if he will play against the Packers on Sunday.