Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles and the Kansas City Chiefs kick off their 2015 campaign with a visit to Houston to face J.J. Watt and the Texans. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who failed to throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver last season, figures to have an easier time with addition of Jeremy Maclin. For the Texans, Brian Hoyer will make his debut as the team's starting quarterback after winning the job in training camp, but star running back Arian Foster is out after having groin surgery early in training camp.
Here are three keys to the game for both the Chiefs and the Texans.
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1. Get the ball in Jeremy Maclin's hands
Kansas City finally has what it painfully and obviously lacked all last fall -- a true No. 1 receiver. Expect a heavy dose of Maclin when the Chiefs take to the skies. The former Philadelphia Eagle and Andy Reid pupil can keep Houston's untested safeties on their toes, while also providing Alex Smith with a option when J.J. Watt and company force him to throw hot.
2. Bring the heat
Nose tackle Dontari Poe's status is still up in the air. Cornerback Sean Smith will miss the game with a suspension. It'll be up to defensive coordinator Bob Sutton to mask both sizable losses against a so-so Texans offense. That could come in the form of heavy-pressure packages -- and with Justin Houston back in the fold, they're fully equipped to bring the heat.
3. Don't let the Texans establish a run game
K.C.'s defense won't have to contend with the injured Arian Foster. That won't deter head coach Bill O'Brien from cramming the ball between the tackles and forcing a Poe-free line to make plays. It'll be up to reserves like Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard to hold up when Hoyer hands it off.
1. Don't make Hoyer do it all himself
The Texans will be without their Pro Bowl running back Foster, and his replacement, Alfred Blue, isn't in the same class. Nonetheless, the Texans have to demonstrate some semblance of a running game in order to avoid tasking Hoyer with carrying the offense. That's not his strong suit.
2. Watt needs to pick up where he left off
Watt, the 2014 NFL Defensive Player of Year, registered 20.5 sacks last season. If Houston is to make the playoffs this season, Watt and the defense will need to lead it. Watt, Vince Wilfork and the rest of the Texans defense need to start by making life difficult for Smith.
3. Get the ball to DeAndre Hopkins
With the departure of franchise legend Andre Johnson, Hopkins is Houston's No. 1 wide receiver. After catching 76 passes for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns last season, he'll need to be every bit as good this season, if not better. With Foster out, Hopkins is the Texans' best offensive weapon. Hoyer needs to get him involved early and often.