Chiefs face Texans in showdown of NFL division leaders

Los Angeles (AFP) –


NFL passing pace-setter Patrick Mahomes, nursing a sore left ankle, leads the Kansas City Chiefs against visiting Houston on Sunday in a showdown of division leaders and top young quarterbacks.

The Chiefs, coming off a loss to Indianapolis, still top the AFC West division at 4-1, a game ahead of Oakland, while the Texans are level with Indianapolis atop the AFC South at 3-2 after routing Atlanta 53-32.

Mahomes, who like Houston counterpart Deshaun Watson turned 24 last month, tweaked an ankle injury suffered in the season opener but says he will be fine for the pivotal matchup.

"It's feeling pretty good, so I'm glad to be able to go out there and practice on it and get it moving around," Mahomes said. "I feel like I'll be fine playing and moving around and still doing what I need to do to win.

"It's not perfect. But it's good enough where I can run, cut and do all that type of stuff."

Mahomes will need full mobility to evade the Texans defenders, led by defensive end J.J. Watt, who have made 15 quarterback sacks this season.

"We're not going to put him in harm's way," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "That's not how we roll here. If we thought it was going to hurt him down the road, he wouldn't be in there."

Mahomes, last year's NFL Most Valuable Player, has completed 65.6 percent of his passes for an NFL-best 1,831 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions as well as rushing for 81 yards.

"He's a phenomenal player," Watt said of Mahomes. "It's a great challenge for us, which we're really looking forward to. But the guy deserves all the credit he gets. He's a great player."

Watson, who like Mahomes entered the NFL in 2017, has completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns with only one interception while rushing for 122 yards and three touchdowns.

But the Texans' offensive fireworks finally exploded last week as Watson, who has been sacked 18 times this season, threw for 426 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions or sacks and only five incompletions.

He was the first passer in NFL history with more than 400 yards and five touchdowns with five or fewer incompletions in the same game as Houston's attack rolled up 592 yards.

"That's Deshaun," said Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins. "The things he can do with the football in his hands, not a lot of quarterbacks can do that. Stay in the pocket and take hits, make throws on the run, make the right calls, put the offense in -- I'm proud of him."

- 'He's a magician' -

The Texans rank second in the NFL in scoring when they reach an opponent's 20-yard line.

It helps that Houston's offensive line has improved, with left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who only arrived last month in a trade from Miami, anchoring Watson's protectors and watching as the signal caller ran 10 yards after recovering his own fumble.

"I was right there and I was like, 'There's no way he picked it up and ran for a first down,'" Tunsil said. "He's a magician, bro. A magician."

NFC East co-leader Philadelphia (3-2) visits Minnesota (3-2) while co-leader Dallas travels to New York to face the winless Jets (0-4).

Undefeated San Francisco (4-0) will visit the Los Angeles Rams (3-2) while Seattle, also in the hunt for the lead with those NFC West rivals, takes a 4-1 mark to Cleveland (2-3).

NFC South leader New Orleans (4-1) travels to Jacksonville (2-3) while NFC North leader Green Bay (4-1) hosts Detroit on Monday night.