Week 1 Game 1
The waiting is over, the time is at hand, finally after 6months of relative quiet the pro-football season kicks off in earnest tonight. Defending champions, the New England Patriots, begin at home to the Kansas City Chiefs hoping to win a ninth successive opening-day fixture at Gillette Stadium.
The quest for a sixth Super Bowl starts here, Tom Brady versus Alex Smith, Chris Hogan versus Tyreek Hill, James White/Dion Lewis/Rex Burkhead/Mike Gillislee versus Kareem Hunt… The Chiefs nasty pass rush versus New England’s stingy D. Having spent a long time looked at lots of stats and numbers throughout pre-season (for our divisional preview podcasts-check them out) I thought it would be nice to simply put an opinion out there based not only on these figures but also on common sense-what the eye sees.
On paper many have handed this game to the Pats already, they are favourite with just about all the odds makers, but we all know better than to rely solely on Vegas right? The Chiefs have a legitimate chance to stop the push for a second, much vaunted, 16-0 season before it even gets off the ground. In going 12-4 last year the Chiefs relied on Smith to manage the offense sensibly whilst leaning heavily of the defensive side of the squad to stop the opposition in their tracks. After failing to win any games where their opponents scored more than 28pts last term the Chiefs haven’t exactly splashed out on offense in the pre-season, so it seems likely that an excellent D Is a formula upon which Kansas City will rely again. To stop Tom Brady, Chiefs Linebacker Justin Houston has said they plan to “Hit him” and “Stay together through four quarters” knowing that Brady will inevitably make some plays but that they cannot allow themselves to be affected by them. If Kansas City can indeed “Hit him” and put T.B.12 under some serious pressure then maybe 16-0 becomes 0-1…
Or, maybe not. Despite the cruel loss of Super Bowl hero (1 of many) Julian Edelman, the breaking news of Malcolm Mitchell being placed on I.R. and the decision to release last year’s Rushing T.D. leader LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots still seem absolutely loaded on offense. Brandin Cooks brings his afterburners from New Orleans to stretch the field, Dwayne Allen adds pass-catching depth at T.E alongside the mercurial Gronk and the backfield is stacked with pacey, powerful talent just chomping at the bit to be released. If Belichick can finally force Phillip Dorsett to live up to his potential then this offense will be better than last years by some margin. Of course, the Chiefs will get pressure on Brady, of course Kareem Hunt may be the breakout rookie R.B of 2017 and of course Tyreek Hill will gain a chunk of yards at some point tonight, but can that really be counted on to tip the balance? Probably not. The margin may not be as huge as some would claim, but there is a reason why all the “experts” are picking the Pats tonight, this offense is a demon waiting to wreak havoc on NFL 2017, Kansas City may find that Gillette Stadium is the wrong place at the wrong time.
My Prediction K.C. 24 – N.E. 31
As an aside: – Danny Amendola is my sneaky key-contributor tonight, few people are talking him up, in fact there’s been lots of mention of a snap-count to maintain his health-which may be so, but Bill likes to utilise players that are under the radar, so expect some big gains from the slot, or even as the surprise “man in motion” behind the line of scrimmage.
Also, im not buying the “Alex Smith is on a short leash” idea just yet. Yes, Patrick Mahomes is clearly the anointed Q.B. of the future, but he has a ways to go to unseat a veteran player with a 79-56-1 record in the league, an excellent turnover ratio (holds the Chiefs record for most consecutive passes without an INT-312) and the respect of the coaching staff. Unless the season goes drastically south, Smith is locked in as the starter for this season at least.