NFL Preview - Houston (2-4) at Kansas City (6-0)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Around and around the quarterback carousel goes. Where it stops nobody knows.
OK, Gary Kubiak probably knew all along but three different signal callers could have been under center for Houston this weekend as the struggling Texans try to halt an ugly four-game losing streak against the 6-0 Kansas City Chiefs.
Veteran quarterback Matt Schaub is injured and has been ineffective, giving the embattled Kubiak a decision to make, one he confirmed on Thursday by giving Case Keenum the reins.
Whether Schaub can't go because of his balky ankle or the team simply decided his play hasn't been up to par is up for debate but the embattled Kubiak also looked past backup T.J. Yates, who played poorly after relieving Schaub in an embarrassing 38-13 home loss to St. Louis last weekend, and landed on Keenum, a popular Texas native who starred in college at the University of Houston.
"He's given me confidence thru camp," said Kubiak of Keenum. "He continues to grow. We're looking for a spark and he deserves an opportunity."
Keenum, a second-year player who has never taken an NFL regular-season snap, grabbed the job from Yates during practice this week. He did have a prolific collegiate career with the Cougars, throwing for over 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in a season three times. In his senior campaign in 2011, Keenum threw for 5,631 yards with 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Schaub, who had thrown a pick-six in four straight games entering last Sunday's contest, protected the ball against the Rams but failed to ignite Houston's offense, completing 15-of-21 passes for 186 yards before exiting late in the third quarter with the right ankle injury.
Yates took over under center and promptly tossed a pair of red-zone interceptions, opening the door for Keenum.
"I think there has been a lot of talk about our quarterback the last few weeks," said Kubiak. "This is a team game and we have a lot of issues to get fixed: coaching and playing."
Arian Foster was the lone bright spot offensively, rushing for 141 yards on 20 carries and catching four passes for 57 yards.
"It doesn't matter how many good things we do right now because we do just so many poor things," said Kubiak. "We got our butt kicked as a football team."
The Chiefs are familiar with butt-kicking this season but they are the ones that have been doing it.
Even the fans at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium have been on fire, setting a world record for the loudest outdoor arena last Sunday as the Chiefs took care of the Oakland Raiders 24-7.
"It was loud, real loud, ground-shaking loud," said Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
Jamaal Charles had two short touchdown runs and the Chiefs harassed Terrelle Pryor for 10 sacks and three interceptions in a victory that kept Kansas City's best start in a decade alive.
Charles rushed for 78 yards and Alex Smith passed for 128, but Kansas City's defense headlined in this latest win.
All three Pryor picks led to Kansas City points, including Husain Abdullah's 44-yard return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Pryor had a 39-yard touchdown pass to Denarius Moore, but also faced a 3rd-and-48 play at one point in the fourth quarter.
"Teams are in a position where they have to throw in the fourth quarter and with our pass rush, that's a tough thing to do," said Reid. "The defensive staff had a great gameplan for what I think is an up-and-coming quarterback who is very dangerous."
The Chiefs snapped a six-game home losing streak to the Raiders and have won their first six games of the season for the first time since going 9-0 in 2003.
Linebacker Tamba Hali was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after recording 3 1/2 of Kansas City's 10 sacks, including two in big spots in the fourth quarter -- on a 3rd-and-2 play to force a punt and a 12-yard sack on first down that pushed the Raiders back to their own 28.
"You can't make the type of mistakes we made against a good football team like this and expect to win the game," said Raiders coach Dennis Allen, who called the stadium "a tough environment to play in."
Kansas City is 2-3 all-time against the Texans.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Kansas City is a tough task for any quarterback. The unbeaten Chiefs are the first team in NFL history to start 6-0 after losing 14-plus games in the previous season and will be shooting for their first 7-0 start since 2003 (9-0).
The K.C. defense is coming off the 10-sack performance against Oakland and has helped the team compile an NFL-best plus-12 turnover ratio. Smith, meanwhile, is 25-5-1 as a starter in his last 31 games.
Defense and special teams have contributed heavily to Kansas City's success, accounting for over 46.1 percent of the Chiefs' points so far, including five touchdowns.
"It's something we talked about from Day 1, the scoring," Reid said. "There's equal opportunity in all three phases. We want everybody to have their chance to score a touchdown."
The numbers say the Texans should be nearly as successful as the Chiefs. Houston is allowing an NFL-low 252.8 yards per game and garnering 395.7 yards on offense, good for seventh-best in the league. Turnovers, though, have been the great non-equalizer in this case. Houston is an AFC-worst minus-12 when it comes to turnover ratio and that is why the team is scoring just 17.7 points per game.
"Turnovers get you beat in this league and they're getting us beat on a consistent basis," Kubiak said.
With the QB situation in flux, expect Houston to lean heavily on Foster, who has an AFC-leading 531 rushing yards on the season.
Interestingly the Chiefs, who hardly have an explosive offense, have their own big-time runner in Charles, who is second in the NFL behind Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy with 129.2 scrimmage yards per game.
As a whole Kansas City generates just 326.3 ypg and Smith is more of the a manager-type, who places securing the football above all else.
On the injury front Houston lost starting safety Danieal Manning for the rest of the year due to a right knee injury suffered against the Rams.
The backup quarterback is the most popular guy in any city when the starter is struggling but you have to remember they are usually in that position for a good reason and Yates showed that against the Rams.
Throwing Keenum to the wolves against this Chiefs defense is also unlikely to jump start things for Kubiak, who has piloted the Texans to a 4-8 mark since their 11-1 start to the 2012 season and now seems to be grasping at straws.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Chiefs 23, Texans 14
10/17 15:24:13 ET