Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith looks on from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith looks on from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
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HOUSTON (AP) — The only thing standing between the Kansas City Chiefs and their seventh straight AFC West title are the lowly Houston Texans.

But the Chiefs know better than to overlook the one-win Texans, especially after they nearly pulled off a huge upset over Dallas last week.

“They played a great team with the Cowboys, and they were down there where they probably should’ve won,” Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “In this league, you can take no one for granted. Those are NFL players. They have a lot of talented, young guys that play hard.

"We understand it’s going to be a great challenge for us, so we’re going to go out there and play our best football to win.”

The Chiefs (10-3) have won six of their last seven games. Meanwhile, the Texans (1-11-1) need a win to avoid losing nine straight for the first time since dropping the final 14 games of the 2013 season.

After dealing with Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott last week, Houston coach Lovie Smith knows his team faces another huge challenge this week in Mahomes, who leads the NFL in yards passing (4,160) and touchdowns (33).

“He can just do it all, and he’s got a history in the league now of that,” Smith said. “When you have a player like that, it makes everyone look better.”

The Texans returned to Davis Mills at quarterback last week after benching him for two games. But instead of only relying on him to run the offense, Houston used a two-quarterback system with Jeff Driskel taking some of the snaps.

Smith wouldn’t say if they plan to use the same plan at quarterback this week, but Mills said he liked how it worked against Dallas.

“We felt good about it,” he said. “Obviously, both of us have the mindset of whatever we can do to help the team win games. That’s what we’re doing. If (we) use the both-quarterback system, we’re trying to move the ball and score touchdowns. That’s our main focus.”


The Chiefs could have wide receiver Kadarius Toney back this week after missing most of the past four games with a hamstring injury. They also hope to add Mecole Hardman, who recently came off injured reserve for an abdominal issue, though it’s possible he is another week or two away.

“If you add speed to any offense that those two guys have,” Mahomes said, “it really opens up everybody else, because you have to account for those two guys one very play.”


The Texans will be without star rookie running back Dameon Pierce after he was placed on the injured list after spraining his ankle last Sunday. Pierce, who leads rookies with 939 yards rushing, has been one of the only bright spots in Houston’s terrible season.

“If Dameon can’t go, we know what he’s been to our offense this year,” Smith said. “He’s one of the best running backs in football. There would be a void. When a player can’t go, the void is sealed by others. We look to all options.”

The two other running backs on Houston’s roster are Dare Ogunbowale and Rex Burkhead, but neither has done much this season. Ogunbowale has eight carries for 27 yards and Burkhead has 80 yards on 26 carries.


Mahomes grew up in Tyler, Texas, and starred at Texas Tech, before becoming a first-round pick of the Chiefs, and has such an affinity for his home state that he has a home there for the offseason.

But the closest he’s come to playing in Texas over his first five-plus seasons in the league was in 2017, when he rode the bench behind Alex Smith for a game in Dallas.

“Houston is about a three-hour trip from Tyler,” he said, “so I’m sure there’s a lot more people coming than I even know. It’ll be cool for them to see me playing in my home state for sure.”


The Texans will see a familiar face Sunday with safety Justin Reid playing for the Chiefs. Reid was drafted by Houston in the third round of the 2018 draft and spent his first four seasons in Houston before signing with Kansas City this offseason.

“I’m excited,” Reid said. “I have a lot of personal relationships with a lot of those guys, a lot of love for those players, the coaching staff. So, it’s a fun game for me personally to go back in be in the atmosphere that I began my career in.”

Smith raved about Reid, who started 53 games in his four seasons in Houston.

“Justin Reid and I will have a lifetime relationship,” Smith said. “I consider him a friend, too. ... He’s playing excellent football for them. He can tackle. He checks off all the boxes when you’re looking for a good safety.”


AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report.


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