Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs – Sunday, January 12, 2020, 3:05 p.m. EST
Over the past year, PFN has been introducing the football community to the Offensive Share Metric (OSM) – a unique way to assess skill positions as it relates to contributions made during each play. Last week, we used OSM to predict the AFC and NFC Wild Card games. Though the scoreboard results differed in all but one game, OSM was very telling in what we could expect during the game. So, let’s dive back into OSM and some NFL Next Gen Stats to provide a different vantage point for how this week’s NFL AFC Divisional round playoff game between the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs will play out.
Expect both teams to be effective on the ground this week. Houston’s defense has allowed an opposing rusher to surpass an OSM of 20.0 in four of the last five weeks of the regular season, which is 50% above average, and Damien Williams is coming off of a Week 17 performance where he ranked 5th overall in the league with an OSM of 25.5 – his best performance of the year.
Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson, and LeSean McCoy each had their best OSM week when facing eight men in the box more than 25% of the time. Although the Texans only put eight men in the box on 7.7% of Devin Singletary’s carries last week, they did it 42.1% of the time against playoff teams during the regular season, compared to just 15.6% against non-playoff teams.
On the other side of the field, Carlos Hyde has been limited to just 3.3 yards per carry since Week 12 and has only reached 75+ yards on the ground once in that span. Expect that to improve against a Kansas City defense allowing 5.1 yards per carry, which is the worst among all playoff teams and 4th worst in the league. The Chiefs have also allowed six, nearly seven, 100-yard rushers this season (Josh Jacobs gained 99 yards on the ground in Week 2).
The receiving corps for both teams should play as expected, perhaps slightly in favor of Kansas City. Both the Chiefs and Texans defenses are playing better than average, allowing an average OSM of 30.8 and 30.9, respectively, to opposing pass catchers. Offensively, they are similar as well. The Chiefs have an average OSM of 34.9 compared to the Texans’ 34.5.
Keep an eye on how much separation the Kansas City wide receivers get. Their yards after catch doubles from 3.7 to 7.5 when getting 3+ yards of separation. This does not bode well for the Houston Texans, who allow a 72.9% catch rate when giving up 3+ yards of separation, compared to just 52.3% when they don’t.
Travis Kelce’s been ranked in the top 10 for tight ends on eleven occasions per OSM. Houston has allowed a top 10 performance in half of their games, including Kelce in Week 6. If Houston can limit Kelce’s targets to six or less and targeted air yards to less than 5.5, they may be able to limit his impact in the game. That’s a big IF though, as he’s been targeted more than six times in fourteen games this season, and averaged 82 yards in those games. Houston has yet to allow a tight end to obtain more than 70 yards in a game this season.
Whether Darren Fells or Jordan Akins is the main target for Houston, Kansas City will have to keep their OSM under 40.0. The Texans are 6-0 when one of their tight ends eclipses that mark. When doing so, it’s because they’re gaining an average of 4.1 yards of separation, compared to just 2.8 otherwise, allowing them to increase their catch rate from 57.9% to 74.8% on average per game. The Chiefs, though 3-1 when allowing a tight end to reach an OSM of 40.0, have given up 4.4 yards of separation in those games and an average catch rate of 82.9%.
Similarly, look for the Texans wide receivers to keep drives going, especially if the Chiefs allow 3.4 yards or more of separation. The separation has allowed their opponents’ catch rates to increase from an average of 39.7% to 74.8%. That shouldn’t matter too much for DeAndre Hopkins or Kenny Stills, who are still able to catch 70% of balls thrown to them without much separation but expect them to try to take advantage of a few opportunities when given the space.
When the Texans defeated the Chiefs back in Week 6, Deshaun Watson had his 2nd best completion rate of the season at 71.4%. That was also the 2nd best that the Chiefs gave up this year. Expect that to be lower this week, as the Chiefs ended the season allowing just 55.1% of completions over the final three games and allowed an average OSM of 10.3 in that span and 19.8 for the season.
In games which Kansas City has won, the completion rate for opposing quarterbacks has been 4% less than expected. It’s been 3.7% higher than expected in games they’ve lost. Similarly, when the Texans have lost, Watson’s completion rate is 1.6% less than expected. It’s 3.6% higher than expected when they’ve won. Look for the Chiefs to keep the completed air yards below 6.0. That gives them the best chance to disrupt Watson’s completion rate.
Though Patrick Mahomes is ranked 17 overall per OSM at 22.5 (compared to Watson who ranks 10th with an OSM of 25.7), he should get a little help from a Texans defense allowing an average OSM of 23.6 during the regular season. Houston did limit Josh Allen to an OSM of 15.3 last week, but he’s ranked 28th in the league with an overall OSM of 20.4.
Mahomes did not fare well in Week 6 against the Texans, completing just 54.3% of his passes – 11.2% below the expected completion rate. He’ll have to get that close to 70% this weekend if he wants a solid chance to win. Four of the six games that the Texans lost, they allowed a completion rate of 70% or more, 8.7% higher than expected. The other two games were above 65%. Of the ten games the Texans won during the regular season, not a single quarterback completed 70% of his passes and had an average of 4.2% lower than expected.
A slight advantage for the Chiefs, the expected average OSM for Kansas City is 23.1 to Houston’s 22.5. Watson will likely contribute more to the Texans offense than Mahomes will for the Chiefs. However, the Chiefs passing defense will be a determining factor in the result of the game. Don’t be shocked to see Williams have a big role in this game either. Adjusting for points per OSM, chalk this one up as a Chiefs NFL playoff victory over the Texans.
Pick: Kansas City Chiefs 34, Houston Texans 25
Be sure to check out the PFN Betting Crew’s picks for the game as well.