The two teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Chiefs are tied for AFC’s best record, while the Texans are the leading candidate for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
But Kansas City head coach Andy Reid doesn’t care about Houston’s 1-11-1 record.
“We know records,” Reid told reporters on Wednesday. “You can put those things aside at this time of the year. This group here plays hard. They’re well-coached — and we’ve got to make sure that we have a good week of practice [to] get ready.“
Reid has plenty of respect for Texans’ coach Lovie Smith, who was promoted to head coach after serving as the team’s defensive coordinator last season. Despite talent gaps throughout Houston’s roster, Smith’s team plays hard for him — as evidenced by its Week 14 road game against the Dallas Cowboys. The Texans kept it close against the heavily- favored Cowboys, nearly pulling off an upset before losing 27-23 in the final seconds.
That matchup serves as a cautionary tale for a Chiefs team that is favored by 14 points in Sunday’s game.
“[Lovie Smith is] going to give you a great defense that plays hard and aggressive,” noted Reid. “[And] an offense that’s tough.
“Just the fact that they use two quarterbacks and platooned them. It wasn’t because one wasn’t doing well, but they platooned him in. He’s not afraid to do whatever he has to do to win the game. And so, that’s where the challenge comes in.”
In Reid’s mind, the Texans provide another example of the NFL’s parity.
“You have to be prepared and ready to go,” said the head coach. “In this league, the margin between winning and losing is like that. It’s just — it’s crazy — but [it’s] greater than it’s ever been right now.”
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes agreed with his mentor, saying Houston is a well-coached team.
“Obviously, Lovie’s done a lot of great things in the league,” Mahomes said on Wednesday. “So you’ve got to go in there with the mentality [that] you’re going to have to play your best football.
“I think you saw last week [that] they played a great team with the Cowboys — and they were down there where they probably should’ve won.
“In this league, you can take no one for granted.”
Finding ways to exploit Houston’s Tampa-2 defense will be the main challenge for Mahomes and his offense. He will also be hoping to bounce back after Sunday’s 34-28 win over the Denver Broncos — a game in which he threw three interceptions. On Sunday, he’ll be facing a team that has forced the league’s 11th-most turnovers — and 10 of its 17 takeaways have been interceptions.
The good news for Chiefs fans is that Mahomes will have some extra motivation, because Sunday’s game represents a kind of homecoming for him. The team’s visit to NRG Stadium will be the first time Mahomes has played an NFL game in his home state of Texas. He said he’ll have extra guests at the game.
“I went to the Cowboys stadium my first year when we played down there,” he recalled, “and didn’t get to play. But to get down to Houston it’s like a three-hour trip — three-and-a-half-hour trip — from Tyler, Texas.
“I’m sure there will be more people that I know that are coming down to watch the game. It’ll be cool to kind of see some people — and they’ll get to see me play in my home state, for sure.”