When the Kansas City Chiefs were 6-4 — and their four losses had come in the last six games — who would have predicted they would finish the season 12-4 and hold the second seed of the AFC playoffs? That’s some bullish behavior.
Here are the Market Movers as we head into Sunday’s Divisional round game against the Houston Texans — along with a few predictions for the matchup.
This week’s Bulls
- Damien Williams: Some will look at Williams’ game against the Los Angeles Chargers and say, “If you take away the long run, he didn’t do much.” Well... we’re not taking away the long run. The ability to break tackles and score from anywhere on the field is a skill this offense needs. Frankly, if Williams has 12 carries for a net loss of 12 yards but then breaks a 50-yard touchdown that helps the team beat Houston... I’m good with that. And in the season finale, he actually had a couple of other significant runs — fighting through contact to move the chains and scoring his second touchdown. Let’s not forget just how good Williams was at the end of 2018. If we get that version of Williams in the playoffs, he’ll be among the team’s more valuable offensive players.
- Charvarius Ward: When we look back on this season (hopefully after celebrating a championship), one of the bigger storylines just might be the development the second-year cornerback — a player about whom we once had serious concerns. But he has quietly improved — and in some metrics is now being listed among the league’s best. Many of us are still a bit skeptical — but over the next few weeks, Ward has a real opportunity to cement himself as part of the long term solution. And get paid as such.
- Mecole Hardman: He’s still a low-volume, complementary piece on the Chiefs offense. But he makes his touches count like nobody else. In Week 17, one of his targets was a 30-yard catch that got the offense on track. Hardman made the Pro Bowl as a return specialist, which was somewhat of a joke... until it wasn’t. With his 104-yard kick return touchdown against the Chargers, Hardman established himself as a serious threat in multiple phases of the game.
This week’s Bears
- Sammy Watkins: Fair or unfair, criticism of Watkins continues. He’s judged more harshly because his cap hit is not only the highest on the team but also the highest among all NFL wide receivers. But by any measure, he’s not producing on the field. One catch for eight yards in the season’s final game doesn’t give us a lot of hope that he’s trending in the right direction for the playoffs.
- Darwin Thompson and LeSean McCoy: To get through an NFL season, a team needs a number of running backs — and variety among them. The Chiefs stockpile backs who can play and then seem to go with a hot hand approach. If that’s the case, these two are most certainly the cold hands for the playoffs. Damien Williams appears to have regained his spot as the featured running back. Unless something changes drastically, these two guys will be spectators.
Observations and predictions for Chiefs vs. Texans
- Both quarterbacks will driving the bus. Two team leaders — Patrick Mahomes on offense and Tyrann Mathieu on defense — appear poised to push, pull, drag and otherwise propel this team in the playoffs. Both mentally and physically, they’re at the top of their games — and they’re leading from the front. Both are competitors who won’t let their respective units fail. In the past, the Chiefs have had good individual performances from guys who weren’t forceful leaders — or they had leaders who couldn’t make plays when it mattered. Chiefs fans should be excited about having a team with legitimate stars on both sides of the ball — ones who can lead the charge and win by any means necessary.
- The Chiefs pass rush will be a problem for Houston. Frank Clark, Chris Jones and Terrell Suggs will be the primary pass rushers against a Texans team that gave up seven sacks to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round. As the Chiefs defense has rounded into form, they’ve found ways to create pressure in a number of ways — even with the variety of injuries among their defensive ends. In fact, fifteen different Chiefs have had at least one sack this season. Expect Brendan Daly’s stunts and Steve Spagnuolo’s blitzes to keep Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson uncomfortable — or on the turf. Prediction: on Sunday, the Chiefs have at least five sacks — and a bunch of pressures.
- Revenge will be sweet. The Chiefs have some built-up frustration. They’ll take some of it out on the Texans; Houston was one of the teams that handed the Chiefs a loss during that terrible six-game stretch. The team is also mindful of how close they came to the Super Bowl last season — and they are still salty about how that happened. Attitude can make a huge difference in the postseason — and this time, the Chiefs are determined to be the bully instead of the victim. They have been playing loose, having fun, talking a big game and backing it up. They’re on a mission — and the Texans may just end up being a speed bump along the way. I’m predicting a 35-24 Chiefs win.
If you want a complete look behind the curtain, here’s a link to the full Market Movers database.