Posted on September 4, 2017, by Travis Pulver
It has been a long time coming. To some fans, it couldn’t come soon enough. But Thursday night, it will finally be here—the start of the NFL’s 2017 regular season! As has become the tradition, the Super Bowl champions will kick off the new season on a Thursday night. Since it is the first regular season game, the league tries to schedule a match-up that will hopefully be competitive.
While the odds are in New England’s favor, the Kansas City Chiefs will probably give the New England Patriots a run for their money. As crazy as it sounds, they might even win.
On paper, it should be a very good contest. Both teams were very good last season (Patriots 14-2; Chiefs 12-4). Both won their division and both had a good offense as well as solid defense. But in just about every facet of the game, the New England Patriots are better. They gained more yards, they scored more points, and they allowed fewer.
So—how in the world do the Chiefs stand a chance?
They will have to lean on their running game for starters. Kansas City’s best bet to give Tom Brady as little time as possible to score. The best way to do that is to hold onto the ball (and hopefully score yourself).
At 109.3 yards a game last year, the Chiefs were No. 15 in the league in rushing, but they will be without the services of last season’s leading rusher, Spencer Ware. However, if a preseason injury didn’t take his job there is a good chance rookie Kareem Hunt was going to do the honors. Hunt gained nearly 1900 yards from scrimmage last year for Toledo (1475 rushing, 403 receiving). During preseason action, he was clearly the better of Kansas City’s running backs.
But he’ll have a hard time finding gaps in last season’s No. 3 defense against the run. Yes, the Patriots lost a couple guys on the defensive front. Rob Ninkovich retired, Kony Ealy was released, and rookie Derek Rivers suffered a season ending injury.
But the Patriots are a lot like Alabama. Perhaps the only head coach able to find players he can plug in better than Bill Belichick is Nick Saban.
It will certainly not be easy for the Chiefs to run on the Patriots. To help the running game out, it will help if Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith can get on the same page early on with tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce is easily his best weapon in the passing game and second best in the NFL next to only New England’s tight end, Rob Gronkowski.
If the Chiefs can keep Tom Brady and the Patriots offense off the field, they may have a chance. But, as Atlanta Falcons fans know, Brady doesn’t need a lot of time to make magic happen. It may be a little tougher without Julian Edelman, but the Patriots are stacked with playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Belichick hasn’t designated anyone as the replacement for Edelman, but the team has plenty of candidates (Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Dwayne Allen, and a stable of capable running backs).
Brady will make the most of whatever time he and the offense have on the field. Don’t expect the Patriots offense to miss a beat without Edelman. The Patriots had too many weapons before his injury, and they still do without him.
New England’s defense will bend a little more than Bill Belichick wants it to. But thanks to injuries and defections, they have some new pieces to work into the puzzle and it may take a little time for them to gel. But the Chiefs offense does not have the firepower it needs to take advantage of that time.
Expect Kansas City to keep it interesting in the first half, but for New England to pull away and cover the spread (Patriots -9) in the second half.