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Week 1 Preview: Chiefs at Texans

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Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) at Houston Texans (0-0)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at NRG Stadium, Houston – TV: CBS

*TV announcers: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon

*Keys to the game: Only LG Ben Grubbs enters the regular season in the same spot he began preseason with four other offensive linemen shifted in August. Their focus is creating running lanes for RB Jamaal Charles and not leaving QB Alex Smith as a sitting duck against one of the league’s most ferocious pass rushes. Smith and the entire Chiefs offense was very efficient during the preseason. The question is whether that o-line can hold up to gameplans devised to exploit weaknesses. With the uncertainly of the o-line and Smith’s general penchant for dumping the ball underneath, K.C. will likely have to capitalize on extended drives to be productive.

The Texans open yet another season with a new starting quarterback. They will attempt to set Brian Hoyer up for success by featuring the ground game led by Alfred Blue minus injured starter Arian Foster and playing ball control. The Chiefs have a strong front seven, but NT Donatari Poe (back surgery) will be limited in his snaps if he does play. If the ground game is successful, it sets up play-action shots to deep threats WRs DeAndre Hopkins and Cecil Shorts.

*Matchup to watch – Chiefs RT Eric Fisher vs. Texans DL J.J. Watt: The Texans will move Watt all over the line looking for mismatches, but he’s likely to see plenty of time against Fisher, the former No. 1 overall pick who returns from injury on the other side of the o-line.

*Player spotlight – Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney: The 2014 No. 1 overall pick returns to game action for the first time since undergoing microfracture knee surgery. His snaps will be limited, but any impact only adds to an already strong front seven.

*Fast facts: Smith’s 19 victories since joining the Chiefs in 2013 are the most by a quarterback in his first two seasons with the team in franchise history. … The Chiefs posted a 4-0 preseason record for the first time since their 1969 Super Bowl season. … Blue has 310 scrimmage yards (280 rushing, 30 receiving) in three career starts.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Going on the road against a strong pass rush while trotting out a jumbled offensive line isn’t ideal, but the Chiefs have a veteran quarterback in Alex Smith who gets the ball out of his hands quickly and is bolstered by a strong ground game. The Texans’ offense? Still a mystery.

*Our pick: Chiefs 23-16.


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