The greatest sport to ever grace the earth is finally back. The NFL season opens tonight with the New England Patriots hosting the Kansas City Chiefs. The defending Super Bowl champs got even better in the offseason, while the Chiefs took a different approach. The Chiefs went out and drafted a quarterback of the future with their first pick. They are built for the future while also built to contend now. Who comes out on top? Let’s take a look.
The War In The Trenches
A lot of what goes down tonight will start with the line of scrimmage. Both the Chiefs and Patriots have above average groups on the offensive line. While the Chiefs have build a dominant front, the Pats have a bunch of scheme fits along the line that outperform expectations.
Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon will certainly have their hands full tonight. Justin Houston and Dee Ford are healthy and ready to roll. Ford is coming off a double digit sack season, and a healthy Houston is dangerous. There’s no doubt a quick passing game is in the works tonight.
You also can’t forget about Chris Jones, Allen Bailey, and Bennie Logan. The Chiefs weren’t excellent against the run last season, but that figures to change. Chris Jones can push the pocket from the interior, which will be a challenge for New England.
The Chiefs have a good offensive line, but the Pats have some players who can wreak havoc. Defensive end Trey Flowers is a name to watch all season. He could have a breakout year. Malcolm Brown and Alan Branch provide push on the interior as well. If they stop the Chiefs running attack, it could throw off their rhythm.
How Do You Defend Those Running Backs?
New England boasts four running backs that can all make plays out of the backfield. Mike Gillislee likely will get the majority of the load on the ground. However, it’s hard to know who will be the target in the passing game. Rex Burkhead had a good preseason, and James White was the unsung hero of the Super Bowl. Fans often forget about Dion Lewis, who is as elusive as they come at running back.
How do you defend these guys in the open field? A good pass rush is a start, but that won’t work all the time. The Chiefs may have to get into sub packages to defend the Patriots, especially if they spread them out with multiple running backs.
Can Alex Smith And Company Go Toe-To-Toe With Tom Brady And Company?
The Chiefs defense could bend for a couple quarters, but eventually, they will break. When they do, the Chiefs offense needs to be ready to hang with them. This falls on Alex Smith. Smith has been criticized lately due to his lack of pushing the ball down the field.
He does do it more often than some realize, but at times it’s not enough to win games. Maybe this is the game that Alex Smith silences the critics and proves he’s an upper echelon quarterback.
Stopping The Chiefs Weapons
The Patriots have their hands full with the Chiefs weapons this week. Travis Kelce has emerged as the second best tight end in football, and he can do it all. The Patriots will have to stick defensive backs on him to keep up with him in the open field. If Kelce plays well, it opens things up elsewhere.
Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill are also major threats. Hunt, who starts due to the injury suffered by Spencer Ware, is a downhill runner who fights for every yard. His yards after contact at Toledo were very impressive, and the Pats will need to stay disciplined at the point of attack to contain Hunt. Luckily, they have D’Onta Hightower as their veteran linebacker. Hightower is one of the more underrated players in the league. He will be in position to make plays. Hill, on the other hand, is a handful with that speed. The Pats really don’t have a corner with the deep speed to match Tyreek Hill. Expect Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore to mess with him at the line of scrimmage.
Chiefs: Chris Conley
We talked about Kelce, Hill, and Hunt. With those guys drawing extra attention, Chris Conley has a chance to show that he too has improved. Conley is an ultra athletic player who wins at the catch point and also has top end speed. He will draw favorable match-ups and could come up big, especially on third down.
Patriots: Patrick Chung
Patrick Chung could have multiple jobs tonight. The Pats may put him on Travis Kelce at times, and he may be roaming around the middle of the field. He could also see time in the slot. Chung has always been an underrated Patriot, and he could have a big impact tonight.
Expect these two AFC heavyweights to match each other blow for blow for a while. The Chiefs have the front to mess with the Patriots early. The Chiefs will be within striking distance, but some Patriot defender will make a huge play down the stretch (perhaps forcing the rookie to fumble). The Patriots will then drive down to seal the game.
Patriots 30, Chiefs 20
Jake Schyvinck is a crazed fanatic when it comes to football. He is so much so that he couldn’t contain himself all day. Follow this maniac on Twitter @JSchyvinck13.